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    Hamas says British reporter's captors promise release in 1 week

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    Hamas said Tuesday it secured a promise from Palestinian militants holding BBC correspondent Alan Johnston in Gaza that they will release him June 25.

    DAMASCUS, June 19 (RIA Novosti) - Hamas said Tuesday it secured a promise from Palestinian militants holding BBC correspondent Alan Johnston in Gaza that they will release him June 25.

    Mahmoud al-Zahar, a leader of the Islamist group which seized control over the Gaza Strip late last week, said Hamas had extended its ultimatum for the captors by one week. The group earlier threatened to use force against obscure militant group The Army of Islam if the reporter was not released by the end of Monday, June 18.

    Johnston was abducted near his Gaza home on March 12, sending shockwaves through the Palestinian and international public and media, who have since pressed the PNA government to secure his release.

    Al-Zahar, formerly a PNA foreign minister, told Syrian news agency SANA that he had discussed Johnston's fate with his captors from The Army of Islam and secured their promise to release the reporter.

    Last Friday, senior Hamas official Khaled Mashaal told a news conference in Damascus that his organization had established contacts with Johnston's captors and was negotiating his release.

    However, The Army of Islam immediately dismissed his statements and threatened to execute the reporter unless Britain releases several Muslim prisoners, including Islamist cleric Abu Qatada, who is serving a prison term for his alleged connections with al-Qaeda.

    Johnston, who turned 45 in May, had been working in Gaza for the past three years, and is one of several foreign journalists and aid workers abducted in the Palestinian enclave in the past two years. In all previous cases, the victims were released unharmed after a few days.

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