A shadowy group holding a British Broadcasting Corp. correspondent for three months threatened on Sunday to kill him in a video broadcast by the Al-Jazeera satellite TV channel.
A spokesman for The Army of Islam, identified as Abu Khattab, told Al-Jazeera that there was no deal to release Alan Johnston, and “ if the situation gets more complicated concerning us and our group, then we will ingratiate ourselves to Allah by slaying this journalist.”
The authenticity of the video could not be independently confirmed. Earlier, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza said there had been no new developments in the case, despite reports that Johnston, who was abducted from a Gaza City street on March 12, would be released soon.
In London, the BBC said it was aware of the video and was “watching developments very closely.”
“These videos only add distress to Alan’s family and friends,” a Foreign Office spokesman said on condition of anonymity according to government policy. “We continue to urge Alan’s safe and swift release and welcome the efforts of all those in the Palestinian territories to that end.”
The deposed Palestinian prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, said earlier that his Hamas movement is moving in a “serious, active way” to win the Johnston’s release.
After taking control of the Gaza Strip last week, Hamas officials said they had made contact with the kidnappers and would work to win his release — in an apparent bid to gain favor with the international community and impose order in chaotic Gaza. Since then, the group has sent mixed messages about how soon Johnston could be freed.
Johnston was snatched in Gaza by a group believed to have some links to Hamas, and a message purporting to be from his captors has demanded the release of Islamic prisoners, including a cleric being held in Britain.
Johnston, 45, was seen for the first since his abduction in a video posted two weeks ago on a Web site used by Islamic militants. He appeared calm and said he was being well-treated and was in good health.
His disappearance is the longest of any Western journalist abducted in Gaza. Palestinian officials have said they know where to find Johnston, but have held back on raiding the hideout at Britain’s request, for fear of harming him.