BBC reporter spends third week in hands of Gaza abductors

BBC journalist Alan Johnston has been in the hands of his abductors longer than any other Western hostage in Gaza.

BBCjournalist Alan Johnston has been held in Gaza for almost three weeks, which means he has been in the hands of his abductors longer than any other Western hostage in the troubled Palestinian area.

Johnston was forced from his car at gunpoint in Gaza on March 12 in an apparent kidnapping. In 2006, two Fox journalists were held for 13 daysbefore being released.

There is still no word on Johnston's whereabouts, and the BBC has had no contact with his abductors, director general Mark Thompson said this week. However, he added, the broadcaster has been told Johnston is safe andbeing looked after.

On Thursday, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal appealed to Johnston's captors to release him. And the Palestinian Press Association has said it will hold protests in Gaza until Johnston's released.

"I can't tell you how touched we are by the support Alan's been getting in Gaza," Thompson said.

Johnston is the only foreign journalist from a major news organization to be permanently based in Gaza. He has been therealmost three years. He stayed when other reporters left because he believed storiesfrom Gaza needed to be told, Thompson said.

Johnston's father, who lives in Scotland, has said his son's apparent kidnappingis "no way to treat a friend of the Palestinians."

Speculation as to who forced him from his car at gunpoint continues to focus on a large Gaza clan with criminal connections and a willingness to shift loyalties among Gaza's rival political and militant factions, the CBC's Margaret Evans reported Friday.

Earlier, the Foreign Press Association announced the BBC had passed on "convincing evidence" that Palestinian militants are actively seeking to kidnap more foreigners.

The group has now advised its members to "re-evaluate" the necessity of travel to Gaza.