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Abductors Denies Deal on BBC Reporter, Issue Death Threat
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The Palestinian group of the Army of Islam in Gaza on Sunday denied any deal had been reached between the group and any other factions on freeing captive BBC reporter Alan Johnston and even threatened to kill him if their condition could not be met.

A masked young man identifying himself as Abu Khatab from the group said in a videotape as he was holding a rifle in an agricultural fields in Gaza that no deal had been reached on the release of Johnston, adding "what had been earlier reported is totally untrue."

Hamas said earlier in the day that Johnston would be released "soon."

But he confirmed that his group was in contact with the Islamist movement of Hamas whose fighters took control of Gaza Strip since Friday, saying "things are developing and we would brief you on any development."

"There are talks and there are sessions, one after the other", said Abu Khatab, adding "our demands are still the same, free our prisoners, including the Palestinian Abu Qutada," who is a Jordanian of Palestinian origin accused of having links to terrorist groups.

"In case our demands are not answered, and in case more pressure is exerted on us, we would slaughter this journalist," said Abu Khatab.

Earlier on Sunday, al-Qassam Brigades, Islamic Hamas movement's armed wing said they didn't rule out the possibility of using force to free Johnston.

In a move to convince local residents that it could restore law and order in the Strip after taking control of it, Hamas has called for an immediate release of Johnston.

On March 12, members of the Army of Islam, which is supported by a Gaza clan, kidnapped Johnston as he was leaving his office going home.

Two weeks ago, Johnston showed up for the first time in a videotape, in which he spoke in English about the hard situation in Gaza and blamed his government for keeping the embargo imposed on the Palestinians.

(Xinhua News Agency June 18, 2007)

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