updated 10/18/2005 10:46:11 PM ET 2005-10-19T02:46:11

A shadowy Palestinian militant group on Tuesday said it has abducted two alleged collaborators with Israel and threatened to carry out additional kidnappings.

The announcement by the group calling itself the “Knights of the Storm” was latest sign of chaos and lawlessness in the Gaza Strip following Israel’s withdrawal from the area last month. The group said it abducted the two men in the southern town of Khan Younis on Monday after Palestinian officials refused demands to arrest them.

Several masked militants posed for pictures in front of the men, who were kneeling on the floor of an empty room with their faces against a wall.

The gunmen said they are affiliated with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction, which controls the Palestinian Authority.

One of the militants, identifying himself as Abu Anan, said late Tuesday that the group’s interrogation had determined that the two hostages, whom they did not identify, were part of a network of collaborators with Israel.

“We will not make a decision on whether to execute the men until after our interrogation process is complete,” he said in a telephone interview.

Palestinian security officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

During more than four years of fighting with Israel, militants have executed dozens of alleged collaborators, often based on evidence gathered during hasty interrogations.

There also has been a rash of kidnappings in Gaza in recent months as gunmen try to get jobs, break relatives out of jail or settle personal scores. The violence has picked up in the wake of the Israeli withdrawal, which was completed last month.

Also Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a letter to Israeli President Moshe Katzav and Abbas, warning them against losing momentum given to the peace process by Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Russia is one of the four members of the so-called Quartet of international mediators that drafted the “road map” peace plan. The others are the United Nations, the United States and the European Union.

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