Palestinian security forces hunted for two abducted Fox News journalists Tuesday, and the Palestinian president and prime minister were intervening in an attempt to gain their release.
President Mahmoud Abbas and Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of the Hamas-led government, scheduled meetings with the news organization’s Jerusalem bureau chief, Eli Fastman, and its chief correspondent in Israel, Jennifer Griffin.
Investigators said the president’s office was closely following the probe into the abduction.
American reporter Steve Centanni, 60, and New Zealand cameraman Olaf Wiig, 36, were seized by masked gunmen Monday near the headquarters of the Palestinian security services.
No one has claimed responsibility for kidnapping, and police said no demands have been made. Major militant groups denied any connection to the abduction.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Helen Clark dispatched diplomats to Gaza to assist in any contacts for their release. She said she was “very concerned” about the kidnapping.
Wiig’s wife, Anita McNaught, said Fox representatives told her negotiations for their release were already under way. But officials in Gaza said no contact had been established with the kidnappers.
Nabil Abu Rdeina, an Abbas aide, said the president ordered all security forces to work on tracking the two journalists. “This is an unacceptable act. We condemn this operation and hope we would succeed to find a peaceful solution very soon,” he said.
An investigator in the case, speaking on condition of anonymity so as not to jeopardize the investigation, said suspicions were focusing on a renegade group from an established Palestinian militant organization, but he declined to give further details. The car in which the journalists were taken has been identified, he said.
Vehicle marked ‘TV’
Centanni was behind the wheel of the Fox vehicle, marked in large letters “TV,” when the gunmen pulled up and stopped them, a Fox employee said. A Palestinian who was with them was forced onto the floor at gunpoint, and the two journalists were taken away.
An official following the investigation said the getaway car was spotted driving south along the coastal road.
Police and security forces were deployed at major intersections and roads in Gaza immediately after the kidnapping.
Several foreigners have been kidnapped in Gaza by small groups seeking the release of relatives from jail, jobs or other personal favors. All have been freed within a few days without harm.