CNN producer freed in Gaza City

New York, September 28, 2004—CNN producer Riad Ali was freed and in the custody of Palestinian police today, a day after being abducted by gunmen on a main street in Gaza City, CNN reported.

CNN President Jim Walton said the station was “enormously relieved” that Ali had been released. “His ordeal serves to highlight the dangers faced by journalists around the world and we at CNN are grateful that this incident ended the way it did.”

CNN said a tape surfaced shortly before Ali’s release in which the producer said he was being held by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a militant Palestinian group with ties to Fatah, the group headed by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The Brigade had earlier denied involvement in the kidnapping, and had joined other groups in condemning it.

Ali said on the tape that he is a Druze, a minority Arab population in Israel whose members often serve in the Israeli army. He called for the Druze not to serve in the Israeli army. No demands were made.

Ali had arrived in Gaza just hours before he was seized at gunpoint from a car at about 6:30 p.m. local time yesterday. CNN colleagues, including correspondent Ben Wedeman, were also passengers in the car. A veteran CNN producer, Ali had handled a number of earlier assignments in Gaza.

Contrary to an initial report in the Israeli daily Haaretz, CNN said today that the gunmen did not beat the other members of the CNN crew station or take equipment.