BBC reporter ‘is still alive’

The kidnapped Briton Alan Johnston is probably still alive say sources close to the Palestinian intelligence services.

Johnston was abducted by gunmen in Gaza City on March 12 and despite repeated calls from his family and other journalists, has not been heard from since.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he knew which group was holding the BBC reporter but declined to give details, saying only that he had received word that Johnston was alive “in the last three days.”

Earlier there had been speculation that Johnston may have been killed after a previously unknown group, The Brigades of Tawheed and Jihad, said it had killed Mr Johnston to support demands for the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Palestinian militants have kidnapped other journalists and human rights workers before, but most have been released unharmed after only brief periods in captivity.

What makes Johnston’s abduction all the more perplexing is that a jailed leader of Palestinian militant faction Fatah, Marwan Barghouti, has also demanded that Johnston be freed

Nonetheless, there has been no word of Johnston or his whereabouts since his abduction over a month ago.

Moreover, the BBC has not commented on speculation in the Israeli press that Johnston may have actually staged his own abduction.

It would after all, be extremely bad for the BBC’s already beleaguered credibility if one of its foremost reporters was found to have staged his own kidnapping.

However Israel’s Y Net News reported in early April that Palestinian sources said that Johnston received notice of his dismissal from the BBC, and subsequently fabricated the kidnapping in order not to lose his job.

True to form, the BBC refused to comment on the report.