An American student briefly kidnapped by Palestinian militants said Sunday he was seized by a heavily armed man from a cafe while he was visiting a West Bank city.
Benjamin Fishbein, a student at Brown University in Providence, R.I., was released Sunday after being held for a short time, Palestinian security officials said.
Fishbein said he was visiting the Palestinian city of Nablus as a tourist. He was talking to some local Palestinians and smoking a water pipe at a cafe when he was approached by a heavily armed man who identified himself as Ahmed.
“I was a little uncomfortable while I was around him,” he said in an interview shown on Israel television. “He had a pistol, a grenade and a machine gun,” said Fishbein. “I didn’t want to be in his company but it seemed that I didn’t have any choice at that point.”
Fishbein wears a traditional Jewish skullcap but does not speak Hebrew. It appears the militants agreed to quickly release him because he is an American who does not hold Israeli citizenship.
“I got the impression that they were in over their heads,” said Fishbein. “They were going crazy talking on the phone and they clearly had no idea what they were doing. They were not organized.”
The kidnapping developed just around midnight Saturday when the Israeli army said it was investigating a possible abduction after some news agencies, including the Arab satellite network Al-Jazeera, said they had received a tape showing a kidnapped Israeli.
Palestinian security forces worked with the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, a militant group linked to President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Party, to find Fishbein and negotiate his release, said Rafa Roagbe, head of Palestinian security in the city.
Later Sunday, Al Aqsa issued a leaflet denying involvement.
Israeli police questioned Fishbein about the incident after his release.
Fishbein spent time in Cairo and studied as an exchange student at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University.