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Agence France Presse Comments on Photog's Release
Associated Press

Agence France Presse on Monday expressed gratitude for the release of a photographer who had been held hostage by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, but gave no information about the man's weeklong ordeal.

Jaime Razuri, 50, a Peruvian photographer with the French news agency, was abducted at gunpoint on Jan. 1 in central Gaza City, the latest in a string of abductions of foreign journalists. On Sunday, his kidnappers released him unharmed.

In a written statement, AFP thanked all those in the media corps, both Israelis and Palestinians, who helped in the process.

"AFP expresses its hope that the foreign press corps in Israel and the Palestinian territories will be free to do their job in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, and that no more journalists will be abducted while doing their duty to inform the public," the statement said.

It gave no further details, and AFP's office declined comment. Razuri was not immediately available for comment.

Razuri met Monday evening with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Neither would talk to reporters.

Rafik Husseini, a top aide to Abbas, said, "We exerted a great effort to ensure his release, and we're happy he's safe and was not tortured." He refused to identify the group that kidnapped him. "It was between Hamas and one of the groups," he said.

With Gaza plagued by crime, political violence and lawlessness, a string of foreign journalists and aid workers have been kidnapped in the area in recent months.

Most of the kidnappings have been carried out by disgruntled groups seeking favors from the government or trying to settle scores with rivals.

In most cases, the victims have been released unharmed within hours. An exception was the abduction of two Fox News employees last summer who were held for two weeks.

Palestinian officials said Fatah, the party of the moderate President Mahmoud Abbas, and the Popular Resistance Committees, a small militant Gaza group with links to Hamas, mediated in his release.

The kidnapping of the photographer drew denunciations from Palestinian officials, foreign correspondents and local Palestinian journalists, who staged a sit-in protest in Gaza City last week to demand the release of Razuri.

Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the Palestinian parliament and Cabinet, attended the protest and condemned the kidnapping, which he said was "against our morals and against our religion."

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