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New Zealand Police Official Joins Effort to Free Fox News Hostages

Aug 24, 2006  •  Post A Comment

A police official from New Zealand is joining his country’s diplomatic team in Palestine as part of an effort to free a Fox News reporter and his freelance cameraman, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said Thursday.

American reporter Steve Centanni and his cameraman, Olaf Wiig, a New Zealand citizen, were kidnapped Aug. 14 while reporting in Gaza. A videotape released Wednesday showing the two in apparently good health was an encouraging sign, Ms. Clark said to The New Zealand Herald.

“I am pleased that they appear to be well and that they say they are being treated reasonably,” she said. “Nevertheless, I remain deeply concerned for their safety.”

Both hostages were allowed to speak in the video. “Just want to let you know I’m here and alive, and give my love to my family and friends and ask you to do anything you can to try to help us get out of here,” Mr. Centanni said in the video. Said Mr. Wiig, “If you could apply any political pressure on the local government here in Gaza and the West Bank, that would be much appreciated by Steve and myself.”

While her government is working with diplomatic officials in Israel and Gaza to free the hostages, Ms. Clark said she would not work to fulfill the demand of the pair’s apparent kidnappers, the Holy Jihad Brigade, for the release of all Muslim prisoners in U.S. hands within three days.

“The New Zealand government doesn’t negotiate over such demands, so we are working with the responsible authority in Gaza to secure release, and they have their security apparatus fully on this case,” Ms. Clark said.

The U.S. government echoed New Zealand’s rejection of demands. “We don’t make concessions to terrorists, and we continue to call for the release of these journalists without conditions,” said State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos, according to a story from the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Fox News also responded to the video. “We trust that the abductors understand they are responsible for Steve and Olaf’s welfare and safe return,” said John Moody, Fox’s senior VP for news, in an e-mail to Reuters. “We ask for their immediate release.”