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Journalist captured in Gaza may be freed soon

Story Highlights

• Hamas vows to secure release of BBC correspondent held in Gaza
• Alan Johnston was abducted March 12
• Hamas signals it intends to clamp down on chaos in territory
• Johnston recently seen looking well on video released by captors
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GAZA CITY (CNN) -- The military wing of Hamas said Friday it is working to secure the release of kidnapped BBC journalist Alan Johnston, who was abducted March 12 in Gaza.

Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades said it has asked that Johnston be released, and that his captors have promised the release "in the next few hours."

"Al-Qassam Brigades are working hard to free the British journalist Alan Johnston," Abu Obadiah, a spokesman for the group, said at a news conference. "We will not allow the kidnappers to continue keeping him as [a] hostage. And we will not allow repetition of kidnapping international visitors on the Gaza Strip."

The British Broadcasting Corporation said it was aware of the report but had not received any firm confirmation of Johnston's situation.

"We continue to work with everyone involved to try to effect Alan's safe release," the BBC said in a written statement.

The move by Hamas is seen as a flexing of its muscle after it declared control over Gaza on Friday, defeating forces of the rival Fatah faction.

Earlier this month, Johnston, 45, appeared in a videotape delivered to a Palestinian news agency by his purported captors, a group calling itself Jasish-e-al-Islam, or The Army of Islam.

"My captors have treated me very well," Johnston says on the tape. "They've fed me well. There's been no violence against me at all, and I'm in good health."

He then speaks about the suffering of Palestinians and complains about U.S. and British military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Johnston joined the BBC World Service in 1981 and has spent eight of the past 16 years as a correspondent, including periods in Uzbekistan and Afghanistan before becoming Gaza correspondent.

Since 2004, 15 journalists have been abducted in Gaza, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. All the others were released unharmed, usually within days of their abductions. Johnston has been held in captivity longer than any other journalist abducted in Gaza.

A large poster in support of reporter Alan Johnston hangs outside the BBC headquarters in London.



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