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FNC Journalists Centanni and Wiig Released in Gaza

[Updated below.]

FOX News journalists Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig were released in Gaza, two weeks after their abduction by a group calling iself the Holy Jihad Brigades. As part of their conditional release, Centanni and Wiig were required to make a statement on video tape that they denounced the US and Israel and accepted Islam as their faith, sure to be used for propaganda purposes.

Disturbingly, Haaretz reports that “senior Palestinian security officials said Sunday the name [Holy Jihad Brigades] was a front for local militants, and that Palestinian authorities had known the identity of the kidnappers from the start.”

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh went one step further, suggesting that not only were the kidnappers local Palestinians, but that al-Qaeda has zero presence in Gaza or the West Bank. Said Haniyeh, “The kidnappers have no link to al-Qaeda or any other organization or faction. al-Qaeda as an organization does not exist in the Gaza Strip.”

While the terrorists who abducted Wiig and Centanni may well have been local Palestinians, the position that there is zero al-Qaeda presence in Gaza or the West Bank runs counter to both Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian intelligence statements earlier in the year.

With al-Qaeda’s clear attempts to branch into Lebanon, which has seen mixed success, it is logical that the more chaotic West Bank and Gaza territories are even more enticing locales for al-Qaeda expansion attempts, regardless of Haniyeh’s denial.

A Christian Science Monitor report details the ordeal at the hands of the self-procalimed Holy Jihad Brigades as told by Centanni and Wiig at a press conference following their release. In Centanni’s words, the ordeal began as they traveled the narrow streets of Gaza City two weeks ago. “We were driving down a narrow side street in Gaza City. There was a car stopped in front of us, and before we realized what it was, four of them [gunmen] came over to our car, and stuffed us in the back seat of a tiny Toyota and flipped a black hood over our heads. We were crunched down toward the floor and they sped away.”

After two weeks of captivity and the kidnappers’ demands of all Muslim prisoners release from American prisons having gone ignored, the captors settled for a taped ‘conversion to Islam’ at gunpoint.

Said Olaf Wiig of their abduction, “My biggest concern, really, is that as a result of happened to us, foreign journalists would be discouraged from coming here to tell the story and that would be a great tragedy to the people of Palestine and of Gaza in particular.”

To that end, most foreign news agencies have already pulled their foreign staff members from Gaza.

UPDATE: New Zealand media reports that ‘al-Qaeda Rejects’ Kidnapped Centanni & Wiig in Gaza.