Gaza hunt for kidnapped TV crew

An American and a New Zealander working for Fox News television were still missing in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, more than a week after they were seized by gunmen near Palestinian security headquarters.

Steve Centanni, a 60-year-old reporter, and Olaf Wiig, a 36-year-old New Zealand cameraman, have been missing longer than any of some two dozen foreigners previously abducted in Gaza, most of them in the past year. No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping and no demand has been made for their release.

Peter Rider, a senior New Zealand diplomat who is in the region to help secure the men’s release, told New Zealand radio: “I think it’s premature to say that anybody has any direct information or direct lines of communication with the kidnappers.”

Past kidnappings of foreigners, usually journalists or aid workers, have been carried out by armed groups settling private scores or trying to put pressure on the Palestinian Authority to release imprisoned relatives or supply government jobs.

The abductions have generally lasted from a few hours to a few days at most. The captives have invariably been well cared for and released unharmed.

Mr Centanni and Mr Wiig were snatched when masked gunmen in two trucks surrounded their vehicle, which bore TV stickers, while it was parked near the PA security headquarters on August 14.

All the main factions in Gaza, who have been contacted by Fox executives and diplomats, have condemned the kidnapping. They included the Fatah party of President Mahmoud Abbas, the ruling Hamas party and the more radical Islamic Jihad. PA security forces are involved in the hunt for the two men.

“This is the first time the kidnappers haven’t identified themselves or their demands,” said a Palestinian security official. “Usually kidnappers announce who they are, sometimes as soon as they kidnap.”

Anita McNaught, Mr Wiig’s wife and a British broadcaster, made a televised appeal in which she said: “He and his colleague, Steve, don’t deserve this. They are good men and they should be allowed to come home.”

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