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BBC plea on missing Gaza reporter

Story Highlights

• BBC appeals for information about Alan Johnston, believed kidnapped in Gaza
• Johnston's armored car was found abandoned on Gaza City street
• His father, Graham Johnston, demands his son's release
• Suspected abduction denounced by Palestinian Authority interior minister
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GAZA CITY (CNN) -- The BBC has appealed for any information about Alan Johnston, the network's correspondent in Gaza who is believed to have been kidnapped in the Palestinian territory a week ago.

"It is disappointing that after seven days we still have no firm word either about his whereabouts or his condition," said Simon Wilson, the head of the BBC in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

"So at this stage, we call on everyone with influence on this situation and we say to them, it is time to redouble our efforts -- all of us -- now that Alan has been missing for more that one week."

Johnston's armored car was found abandoned on a street in Gaza City last Monday, Palestinian security sources told CNN. The sources said he is the only one who drove that car and they surmise that he was abducted on the way from his apartment to the BBC office in Gaza City.

Johnston had entered Gaza from Israel earlier in the day, the sources said.

Palestinian Interior Minister Said Sayam immediately denounced the reported abduction, and vowed a full investigation.

His father, Graham Johnston, demanded his son's release, saying "it is no way to treat a friend of the Palestinian people."

"This holding Alan is not doing the Palestinian people any favors, quite the opposite," he said.

"All I can say to the men that are holding Alan, please let my son go. Now. Today."

Speaking from his home in Scotland, Johnston said his son had warned the family that "there was a possibility of being abducted -- it went with the territory."

But Alan's passion for telling the "Palestinian story" overrode his concerns about his safety, and he had even requested to stay on in Gaza for an extra year, Johnston said.

The BBC is the only Western television network that has a permanent presence in Gaza, where it is common for kidnappers to target foreign journalists, as well as Western aid workers.

Wilson said the network had "no firm knowledge of any demands, of what they may be, of who may be being made to."

The BBC's only request "is to have some firm information about Alan."

"We've tried to put that through people who think they may be able to help us and we have no firm response to that yet," Wilson said.

He asked Alan's possible abductors to "act responsibly" and reminded them that "Alan is a side player in this."

"He has no grievance with any group in Gaza," Wilson said.

Before Johnston's suspected kidnapping, 14 journalists had been abducted by gunmen in Gaza since 2004 -- all released unharmed -- according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

According to CPJ, the kidnappings appear to be the work of "private individuals or groups seeking to exploit foreign hostages for political purposes or to use them as bargaining chips to secure the release of jailed relatives or to win government jobs."

"To CPJ's knowledge, none of those responsible for abducting members of the media have ever been apprehended or brought to justice for their actions," the committee said.

Here are the most recent kidnappings of journalists in Gaza:

  • Jaime Razuri, a photographer working for Agence France-Presse, was kidnapped January 1 and released a week later.
  • Associated Press photographer Emilio Morenatti, a Spaniard, was abducted by Palestinian gunmen on October 24 and freed later that day.
  • Fox News correspondent Steve Centanni and photographer Olaf Wiig were kidnapped August 14 and held for two weeks before being released.

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