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Gaza gunmen free kidnapped AP photographer

Written by: Staff

GAZA, Oct 25: Palestinian gunmen freed a Spanish photographer working for the Associated Press news agency in Gaza today, hours after they had kidnapped him, a senior Palestinian official said.

''The photographer was released by the kidnappers and handed over to Palestinian security agents. He is no longer in the hands of the kidnappers,'' Tawfi Abu Khoussa, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement, said.

Emilio Morenatti, 37, was grabbed by four gunmen as he was heading out of his apartment to an AP car this morning. He was put in another vehicle and driven away, the AP said, citing one of its drivers who witnessed the incident.

Nobody claimed responsibility for the abduction.

Morenatti, from Jerez, Spain, has been working for the news agency in Jerusalem since 2005, the AP said.

The Hamas-led Palestinian government had demanded Morenatti's swift release and the abduction was condemned by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas.

Palestinian security officials said shortly before Morenatti was freed they had identified his kidnappers and were working for his safe release.

Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, said earlier the abduction ''does not serve the Palestinian cause''.

''We stress that these actions are against our culture and against our religion,'' Barhoum said.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said he had contacted Abbas and other Palestinian officials over the kidnapping.

Previous kidnappings of foreigners have usually ended after a few hours, or at most a few days, of captivity.

Earlier this month, unknown gunmen kidnapped a U.S. student volunteer in the West Bank and released him hours later.

Two journalists working for the U.S. Fox News channel were abducted in the Gaza Strip in August. They were held by militants for two weeks before being freed.


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