British Broadcasting Service


Staff member
BBC's Gaza correspondent released

We an only celebrate with thousands of others that mr. Johnston has been freed at last.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007, 02:31 GMT 03:31 UK

BBC correspondent Alan Johnston has been released by kidnappers in Gaza after nearly four months in captivity.

He said it was "fantastic" to be free after an "appalling experience". TV footage showed Mr Johnston, 45, leaving a building accompanied by armed men.

During his time as a hostage, three videos were released featuring images of Mr Johnston or of his belongings.

Calls were made for his release in rallies worldwide and in an online petition signed by some 200,000 people.

The journalist was handed over to officials of the Hamas administration in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Gunmen from the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement overran Gaza last month, expelling their rivals from the Fatah faction.

Hamas' military wing had said it would spare no effort to secure the BBC reporter's release.

A previously little-known militant group, the Army of Islam, claimed it was holding Mr Johnston and had released videos demanding the release of Muslim prisoners in British custody.

The group had said it would kill its captive if its demands were not met.

'Dreamt of freedom'
Speaking over the telephone from the house of Hamas leader Ismail Haniya, Mr Johnston thanked everyone who had worked towards his release. "It is the most fantastic thing to be free," he said.

He described his experience of captivity as "appalling" and "occasionally quite terrifying".

"It became quite hard to imagine normal life again," he said.

"I literally dreamt many times of being free and always woke up back in that room."

He said he was looking forward to being re-united with his family in Scotland.

Mr Johnston said he stayed aware of efforts to free him by listening to the BBC World Service on the radio.