Archive for Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Kidnap drama ends with release

AP photographer freed in Gaza

October 25, 2006


— An Associated Press photographer was freed unharmed Tuesday after a harrowing day in the hands of Palestinians who abducted him at gunpoint and dressed him in women's clothes to spirit him from one secret location to another.

Emilio Morenatti was brought before midnight to the office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by Fatah officials. It was not clear who kidnapped him, though officials said he was taken by criminals. The government and main Palestinian groups denounced the abduction.

Morenatti, a 37-year-old Spaniard, looked fatigued after his daylong ordeal but said he was unharmed.

"I'm tired but happy to have come back because there were very anguished moments," Morenatti said.

He said the kidnappers held him in a small room, where he was kept for about four hours during which he was visited by masked men. Later he was put in a car dressed as a woman and taken to another location.

Morenatti said he was blindfolded for much of the time, and that his captors spoke only Arabic, which he doesn't speak.

"I didn't know at any moment what they were doing," he said. "They moved me but nobody explained anything to me. It was very confusing."

Morenatti did not know his captors. Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh's office said in a statement that the identity of the kidnappers was known and they "would be pursued."

Morenatti was seized as he headed out of his Gaza City apartment for an AP car, where Majed Hamdan, an AP driver and translator, was waiting. Hamdan said four gunmen grabbed his keys and cell phone and told him to turn away, pressing a gun to his head and threatening to harm him if he moved.

They took Morenatti, shoving him into a white Volkswagen Golf and driving off, Hamdan said.

Hours later, Morenatti was turned over to Fatah forces.

Abbas is not in Gaza, but his office is a safe Fatah stronghold in the territory, which is in the throes of a sometimes violent power struggle between Abbas' Fatah and the militant Islamic Hamas, which is in charge of the Palestinian government.


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