All I can say is HALLELUJAH! Thank you God! Early word is that Fox News’ Steve Centanni and freelance cameraman, Olaf Wiig, have been freed from captivity, which occurred around 5:00 a.m EST. The Fox and Friends group were obviously overjoyed, as well. All I can say is just enjoy these pictures.
According to Fox News: (Sorry, this is worth more than a snippet – this is the whole article as it appears.)
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip â€” Two FOX News journalists were released by their kidnappers Sunday, nearly two weeks after they were taken hostage in the Gaza Strip.
The freeing of FOX correspondent Steve Centanni, 60, and cameraman Olaf Wiig, 36, ends the longest-running drama involving foreign hostages in Gaza.
The two journalists were dropped off at Gaza City’s Beach Hotel by Palestinian security officials. A tearful Centanni embraced a Palestinian journalist briefly as he entered, then rushed upstairs as Wiig followed.
Centanni, in a phone interview shortly after his release, said “I’m fine. I’m just so happy to be free.”
He said he was so emotional because he was out and alive.
“There were times when I thought ‘I’m dead,’ and I’m not,” Centanni said. “I’m fine. I’m so very happy.”
He recounted how he and Wiig were pulled out of their car on August 14 and taken at gunpoint into another car. The kidnappers blindfolded them and handcuffed their hands behind their backs with plastic ties. They were then transferred to another car and driven to a building that they later learned was a garage.
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Steve and the Palestinian PM
“We were pushed down onto the dirt-covered concrete floor and we were forced to life face down with our handcuffs on,” Centanni said.
“Olaf was in the same room with me. Our shoulders were wrenched back, very painful.”
Both of the men were forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint, Centanni said.
“We were forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint,” Centanni told FOX News. “Don’t get me wrong here. I have the highest respect for Islam, and I learned a lot of good things about it, but it was something we felt we had to do because they had the guns, and we didn’t know what the hell was going on.”
Centanni’s brother, Ken, spoke to FOX News directly after the news was released.
“It’s just a tremendous amount of relief, overwhelming relief,” he said.
Later Sunday, the two journalists made a joint appearance with Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas. Haniyeh, Centanni and Wiig sat in a circle of chairs at the Beach Hotel. Wiig was also accompanied by his wife, Anita McNaught.
The day had begun with promises by senior Palestinian officials that the two would be released in coming hours.
At the same time, before the journalists’ release, a new video was released, showing Wiig and Centanni dressed in beige Arab-style robes. Wiig, of New Zealand, delivered an anti-Western speech, his face expressionless and his tone halting. The kidnappers claimed both men had converted to Islam.
The journalists had been seized in Gaza City on Aug. 14 by a previously unknown group calling itself the Holy Jihad Brigades. However, senior Palestinian security officials said Sunday the name was a front for local militants, and that Palestinian authorities had known the identity of the kidnappers from the start.
Haniyeh also confirmed the kidnappers were from Gaza, squashing speculation that Al Qaeda had directed the abduction. “The kidnappers have no link to Al Qaeda or any other organization or faction,” Haniyeh said. “Al Qaeda as an organization does not exist in the Gaza Strip.”
It remained unclear whether the kidnappers had ties to Hamas or the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, a violent offshoot of Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement. A third group, the Popular Resistance Committees, claimed Sunday it had helped mediate the release of the journalists.
In chaotic Gaza, gunmen often change their affiliation or form splinter groups. Their agendas are often driven by personal issues, including jobs and power for their clans, rather than by ideology.
In the past two years, Palestinian militants have seized more than two dozen foreigners, usually to settle personal scores, but released them unharmed within hours. The holding of the FOX journalists had been the longest.
Olaf and his wife, Anita
Steve and Olaf with PM
The AP has more:
The Hamas-led Palestinian Authority has insisted it had no clue about the identity of the kidnappers.
However, in recent days, Hamas government officials signaled that the release of the journalists was imminent and that they had won assurances from the kidnappers the hostages were being treated well.
On Sunday, before the journalists’ release, a new video was released, showing Wiig and Centanni dressed in beige Arab-style robes. Wiig, of New Zealand, delivered an anti-Western speech, his face expressionless and his tone halting. The kidnappers claimed both men had converted to Islam.
Several hours later, the two men were dropped off at Gaza City’s Beach Hotel, wearing Western-style clothing. Their captors had demanded the release of all Muslims imprisoned by the U.S. by midnight Saturday in exchange for freeing the journalists. It was not immediately clear whether the kidnappers received anything in return for freeing the journalists.
Thank you to everybody who prayed for their safe return. It warms my heart to see them so overjoyed, as am I. Word is they are going to give a press conference a little later this morning. Please come back for updated video.
Watch the early morning video here.
Also covering this early is Assorted Babble by Suzie, Jos Cafe, Blue Star Chronicles, bRight&Early, and I’m sure many more to be added. I’m sure Allah at HotAir will be updating soon, and Michelle now has it. Cathouse Chat is also following this, as well as RightWinged. Rick Moran over at Right Wing Nuthouse is on it, too, as is Thespis Journal and Captain’s Quarters. Wizbang also has coverage, as does Jay at Stop the ACLU.
Video of their press conference here.
Steve calls in to Shepard Smith early this morning. Video/audio here.
The Washington Post has this:
Parts of the latest six-minute tape, aired on al-Jazeera television, showed Centanni and Wiig seated cross-legged. Both read from written statements condemning the American policy in the Middle East. In one scene, both men were shown eating.
“It is Apache helicopters firing Hellfire missiles made in America that kill the residents in Gaza,” Wiig said on the tape.
Their statements were punctuated on the tape with screens of written verse from the Koran, and scenes from Abu Ghraib, the prison in Iraq that was the site of abuse of Muslim prisoners by American soldiers.
What a bunch of propagandist B.S. I know it tore both Steve and Olaf to the core to have to say that blasphemy. I’m just so happy they’re now free.
Johnny Dollar’s Place has video of Fox News’ CEO, Roger Ailes, speaking on the matter.
Ali Bubba is also covering this, and has this photo that is being shared around the web, and is so heart-wrenching.
Steve, that is exactly how I feel this morning.
I think I’m going to puke. The next person who says Allahu Akbar within earshot of me is going to get their ass beat severely.
Nothing “new,” new, but here’s more additional video footage from Steve and Olaf’s release as he calls in to Shep this morning. Video here.
This says it all. Sheer Relief!
Not Letting Go
Look at the absolute joy on their faces!
Now, let’s get crackin’ on the PA to help us locate their captors, and ensure they see swift justice. And there is the possibility that both the President and the PM, as earlier alleged by DEBKa, both knew who were holding Steve and Olaf. So, come on, guys.. let’s get to it!
Who knew what, and when did they know it? Check this out from the AP:
Interior Minister Said Siyam said he did not expect other foreign journalists reporting in Gaza to face similar abductions. “In principle, there is a promise that this will not be repeated,” he said, refusing to elaborate.
How does he know this???? More:
Haniyeh was evasive Sunday when asked whether he would try to arrest the kidnappers. Before Hamas ousted Fatah in March, it frequently had criticized the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority for cutting deals with kidnappers and letting them go without punishment.
It was not clear whether a deal had been struck with the kidnappers of the Fox journalists. The kidnappers initially demanded the release of all Muslims imprisoned by the U.S. by midnight Saturday (5 p.m. EDT) in exchange for the journalists.
The Hamas-led Palestinian Authority had insisted it had no clue about the identity of the kidnappers.
However, in recent days, Hamas government officials signaled that the release of the journalists was imminent and that they had won assurances from the kidnappers that the hostages were being treated well.
This story is far from over. I’m waiting for the truth to come out. Having said that, again I’m just relieved for now that Steve and Olaf are back in safety.
h/t Allah at Hotair
Are the kidnappings of Steve and Olaf related to the kidnapping of IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit? According to a later report by Time:
Two Fox News journalists were freed on Sunday in Gaza after a complex deal was hammered out between the kidnappers and the Hamas-led government of Prime Minister Ismael Haniyeh. The negotiations brought an end to the two-week-long hostage ordeal, but it may complicate efforts to free another captive â€” Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit â€” held by Palestinian militants.
In its broadcasts, Fox News often portayed the Hamas militants as terrorists, but the kidnapping of the two journalists, sources tell TIME, had nothing to do with Fox’s perceived pro-Israel stance or a serious attempt, as the captors first demanded, of swapping the pair for Muslim prisoners in the U.S. Instead, the two newsmen were more likely the victims of a vicious feud between various Palestinian militias.
Excuse me? “Militants?” What the hell is wrong with calling them what they are, “terrorists?” I guess Time doesn’t consider them to be.
Well, well… turns out this might have been a pissing contest between two sects of the same organization:
Palestinian security sources close to the negotiators told TIME that the two Fox Newsmen â€” reporter Steve Centanni, 60, from Washington, D.C., and New Zealand cameraman Olaf Wiig, 36 â€” were kidnapped from Gaza to embarrass Haniyeh’s government. The militants, who earlier identified themselves as members of the previously unknown Holy Jihad Brigades, were enraged with fellow Hamas militants because they too had joined in the daring capture on June 25th of Corp. Shalit, in which Palestinian gunmen tunneled under a wall and attacked an Israeli army post. But according to these security sources, the militant groups fell out after Hamas’ military wing took control of Shalit and elbowed the other co-conspirators aside.
In revenge, these militants, who belong to a splinter group of the late Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement, struck back by seizing the two journalists, these sources said.
Haniyeh was able to secure the journalists’ freedom, but at a high price: he has agreed to give these armed extremists a role in deciding the fate of the Israeli soldier, these sources said. The kidnappers are more extreme in their approach to Israel (Prime Minister Haniyeh is a moderate within Hamas), and they will undoubtedly raise the ante for the release of the 18-year-old corporal, who is said to be in good shape even though his captors have so far refused to offer any proof he is still alive.
You guys have a beef with each other? Keep it to your own damn selves, and leave American (or other) journalists alone!