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BBC Reporter Freed as Hamas Consolidates Control in Gaza

BBC reporter Alan Johnston was released Wednesday after 16 weeks of imprisonment, an indication of Hamas' control over the restive Gaza Strip. A New York Times reporter speaks about the effects of the group's control.

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  • JULIAN MANYON, ITV News Correspondent:

    This was the first sight of Alan Johnston free. Surrounded by the armed men of Hamas, he looked tired, even a little stunned. He'd been handed over by his kidnappers only half an hour before. But amid the chaos, there was no mistaking Alan's relief and joy.

    Soon afterwards, Alan found himself having breakfast with the leaders of Hamas, men who had been determined to free him to try to improve their Islamic movement's image. Then, Alan began to describe the nightmare that he had just lived through.

  • ALAN JOHNSTON, BBC Reporter:

    I dreamt many times that — literally dreamt of being free again, and always woke up in that room. And it's almost hard to believe that I'm not going to wake up in a minute in that room again.

  • JULIAN MANYON:

    British diplomats drove him to the border with Israel, and it was there that he spoke to me.

  • ALAN JOHNSTON:

    Hi, Julian, how are you?

  • JULIAN MANYON:

    Well, how are you is more to the point? How do you actually feel to be free? Has it sunk in?

  • ALAN JOHNSTON:

    You know, it is the most fantastic thing, isn't it, to come to the end of that. It was the most terrible thing I've been through in my life. You can imagine, 16 weeks in solitary confinement, difficult, unpredictable people who did talk occasionally about killing me.

  • JULIAN MANYON:

    What was actually the worst moment?

  • ALAN JOHNSTON:

    The leader of the gang had said that I wouldn't be killed or tortured. He was speaking with his face concealed in a face mask, and I didn't know whether to believe him or not. And a couple of hours later, they woke me up, and they put a hood over my head and handcuffed me, and took me out into the night. And, of course, you wonder where that's going to end, and I really — I was taken into a room then, a very bare room then. But through the mask that they put on me, I could see in the corner a large stick. And I did wonder if I was going to get a beating at that point.

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