GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – An unknown militant group demanded the release of Muslim prisoners in U.S. jails within 72 hours in exchange for two kidnapped Fox News journalists, who were shown sitting cross-legged and barefoot on the floor in a video released Wednesday.
The video, which broke 10 days of silence from the kidnappers, marked the first time militants in Gaza have issued demands going beyond the conflict with Israel. The footage also had none of the trappings of locally produced videos, such as flags or masked gunmen, raising the possibility that foreign extremists may have taken root in Gaza.
Palestinian and Israeli officials say al-Qaida has been trying to infiltrate Gaza in the aftermath of Israel’s withdrawal a year ago. The Egypt-Gaza border is now rife with smuggling tunnels, and Palestinian militant groups have blown up a border wall to allow people in and out of the area.
In the footage, American correspondent Steve Centanni, 60, of Washington, D.C., and cameraman Olaf Wiig, 36, of New Zealand appealed for help in getting released.
The images of the men sitting in a dark, drab room were the first sign of the journalists since they were abducted Aug. 14 from their TV van in Gaza City.
“Our captors are treating us well,” Centanni said.