TV soundman released unharmed

22nd August 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Aug 22 (AFP) - A French television soundman who was kidnapped in the Gaza Strip eight days ago was released unharmed on Monday, Palestinian security sources said.

PARIS, Aug 22 (AFP) - A French television soundman who was kidnapped in the Gaza Strip eight days ago was released unharmed on Monday, Palestinian security sources said.

Mohammed Ouathi, a technician working for the France 3 network, was now in the safe custody of the security forces, the sources added.

"I want to thank the Palestinian popular resistance committees who contributed to my freedom. I want to say that I was well treated and everything went fine," he told reporters after his release. "Now I want to go home, I want to phone my wife."

The cirumstances of Ouathi's release were not immediately known. The group which kidnapped him has not been identified and no demand was made public.

Ouathi, a 46-year-old French national of Algerian origin, was abducted by armed men outside his hotel in Gaza City on August 14.

The three other members of his crew escaped. The team had been in Gaza along with a large contingent of international media ahead of Israel's withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territory.

President Jacques Chirac thanked Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas for Ouathi's release saying he was relieved at the news.

"In the name of all the French, he shares the joy and relief of our compatriot, his family and his colleagues," a statement from Chirac's office said.

In it, Chirac congratulated "all the French services which mobilised for this release" and "addressed his deepest thanks to the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mr Mahmoud Abbas, for his action, as well as all those who contributed to the release of Mr Ouathi." 

Ouathi's family meanwhile expressed their "immense" relief at the news, with one of his sisters telling AFP she almost collapsed with emotion.

"It was Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin who called me around 2:30pm on my mobile to announce my brother's release," Rekia Ouathi said.

"I nearly fell down with emotion. I can't find my words and I'm not yet able to cry with joy so immense is the emotion," she said.

Ouathi's kidnapping was the latest in a series of abductions in Gaza in recent weeks and came just three days after Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas ordered security services to protect foreign workers in the Gaza Strip.

The kidnappings have been extremely embarrassing for the Palestinian Authority which is trying to prove it can keep law and order after Israel completes its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip after a 38-year occupation.

The United Nations decided earlier this month to indefinitely withdraw its non-essential staff from Gaza after five of its workers were kidnapped in Gaza in recent weeks, although all the kidnap victims have been released unharmed within hours.

"I only want one thing and that's to hold him close. I know he's going to be very proud of me because we fought for him," Rekia Ouathi said.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news, kidnapping, Gaza, Oathi, Villepin, France 3

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