Kidnappers have released a tape of two abducted Fox News journalists, who emphasized they were being treated well but asked relatives to press Palestinian officials for their release.
Fox correspondent Steve Centanni and cameraman Olaf Wiig were kidnapped by masked gunmen in Gaza City 10 days ago, but until now no one has claimed credit or issued any demands.
A group calling itself Holy Jihad Brigades claimed responsibility and sent a fax demanding that the United States release "Muslim prisoners" within 72 hours. Reuters reported that a fax sent to reporters took responsibility and demanded that the U.S. "Release what you have, and we will release what we have."
"We are going to exchange the Muslim female and male prisoners in American jails in return for the prisoners that we have. We are going to give you 72 hours beginning midnight tonight to take your decision," the statement says, according to Arab news service Ramattan.
In a glimmer of good news for the journalists, the note did not threaten any reprisals against Centanni and Wiig. "If you implement and meet our condition, we will fulfill our promise. If not, wait, and we are going to wait," the statement said.
In a tape broadcast on Fox News Wednesday, the journalists looked and sounded surprisingly healthy and not under severe duress. They sat cross-legged on the floor and were not being threatened on camera in any way. It’s not clear, however, when the tape was made. Centanni emphasized that “we are in good condition and alive and well and in fairly good health and water and food everyday, access to the bath room, shower and clean clothes and our captors are treating us well.”
He added: “So just want to let your know I am here alive and give my love to my family and friends and ask you to do anything you can to try to help us get out of here. We love you all and we want to go home. Hope to see you soon."
While the fax from Holy Jihad directed its demands to the U.S. government, Wiig asked in the tape for family and friends to aim their efforts at Palestinian authorities. “If you could apply any political pressure to the local government here in Gaza and the West Bank, that would be much appreciated by both Steve and myself. I know, Anita, you will already be doing that. To my family, I love you all. Please don't worry, I'll do all of the worrying for us."
"We're encouraged that our colleagues appear to be alive and well in the tape that was released today," said John Moody, senior VP, news editorial, for Fox News. "We trust that the abductors understand they are responsible for Steve and Olaf's welfare and safe return. We ask for their immediate release."
Rainbow PUSH Coalition President Rev. Jesse Jackson said Wednesday he plans to make a trip to the Middle East to meet with leaders in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to push for the release of prisoners, including the Fox News captives.
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