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Sources: $4 million paid to Hamas for BBC reporter’s release

Palestinian negotiators claim terror group also gave Johnston’s captors assault rifles
Posted: July 13, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern

By Aaron Klein
© 2007

Alan Johnston after his release (BBC)
JAFFA, Israel – In exchange for the release of BBC reporter Alan Johnston, the Hamas terror group paid kidnappers $4 million and provided them with weaponry, Palestinian sources involved in the negotiations told to WND.

Hamas repeatedly has denied it paid anything to the Army of Islam, the gang that abducted Johnston in the Gaza Strip March 12 and held the reporter for 114 days, marking the longest detention of any foreign correspondent in Gaza.

But according to sources close to the negotiations to free Johnston, Hamas paid $4 million and provided the Army of Islam with “dozens” of high-powered assault rifles.

Officials from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ office also accused Hamas of paying off the Army of Islam. Abbas’ Fatah party is now at odds with Hamas after the terror group took over all Fatah positions in Gaza in June.

Abu Oubaida, a spokesman for Hamas, would not confirm any deal was reached.

A number of senior Israeli defense officials told the Jerusalem Post earlier this month they believed Hamas paid a substantial ransom – possibly millions of dollars – to Johnston’s captors in return for his release. The officials told the Post the fact that the Army of Islam captors released the BBC journalist without a fight indicates the terrorist group received something in return.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Hamas paid the purported ransom from its own funds or some money was contributed by others.

The BBC has confirmed it negotiated directly with Hamas but has denied paying anything for Johnston’s release.

According to sources close to the Johnston negotiations speaking to WND, when their reporter was first kidnapped, the BBC immediately expressed willingness in private talks to pay for Johnston’s freedom.

The Army of Islam has not released any statement about Johnston’s freedom.

WND first reported in April senior Palestinian security officials believed Johnston was being held by the Dugmash clan, a powerful Gaza-based Palestinian family affiliated with local terrorist organizations and ideologically aligned with global jihad groups. The Dugmash’s lead the Army of Islam, which later took credit for the kidnapping.

Some members of the Dugmash clan previously were with the “Saladin resistance department” of the Popular Resistance Committees, a coalition of terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

The Committees organization is accused of orchestrating attacks with groups affiliated with al-Qaida and has carried out anti-American attacks. Israel says the Committees group was responsible for the bombing of a U.S. convoy in Gaza in 2003 in which three American government contractors were killed.

A significant number of Dugmash clan members left the Committees last year, complaining the group was not “Muslim enough.” They formed the Palestine Army of Islam, which bills itself as the closest Palestinian organization ideologically to al-Qaida. The Army of Islam is one of three terrorist groups that claimed responsibility in June for the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Army of Islam chief Dugmash last month was crowned the “prince of al-Qaida in Gaza” in a statement released by al-Qaida leaders in Iraq.

Israeli and Palestinian security officials said the Dugmash clan was strongly suspected of kidnapping two Fox News reporters in Gaza in August who were held for two weeks but later released.

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