Johnston's captors release video


LONDON -- The BBC has reiterated its call for the release of kidnapped Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston after footage of the reporter was posted on the Islamic al Ekhlaas Web site early Friday.

The video represents the first images of Johnston since he was kidnapped at gunpoint from his car 81 days ago and is the only evidence his family and friends have had of his health and whereabouts.

Though it is not clear from the video when or where it was filmed, the pictures show Johnston appearing calm, pale and apparently unhurt and reading a transcript calling for the withdrawal of British and American support for Israeli action in Gaza.

In the video, Johnston said he had been treated well, and he read a statement highlighting the plight and "huge suffering" of Palestinians in the occupied territory.

Johnston, who was seated and appeared to be reading from a prepared statement, wore a red sweatshirt and was positioned against a black background.

None of his captors was pictured in the video, but it bore the onscreen logo of the Army of Islam, a little-known group that also posted pictures of Johnston's press card and personal items some weeks after his kidnapping.

"First of all, my captors have treated me very well. They've fed me well. There's been no violence toward me at all, and I'm in good health," Johnston said in the video, which goes on to condemn Western support of Israel's Palestinian policies as well as the U.S. and British presence in Iraq.

The British foreign office said it was "carefully studying" the video and its contents, while the BBC said that Johnston's kidnapping continued to be "deeply distressing" for his family.

"We are studying the video very carefully," the pubcaster said in a statement. "We have been working very closely with Alan's family for the past 81 days. This is a highly distressing time for them and for his friends and his colleagues. We repeat our call for his immediate release."