Hamas government spokesman expects `good news' about kidnapped Fox journalists in two days

Saturday, August 26th 2006, 10:29 am
By: News On 6

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) _ Palestinian officials said Saturday they expected to have ``good news'' about two kidnapped Fox News journalists within two days, despite an approaching deadline over their fate.

Cameraman Olaf Wiig of New Zealand and correspondent Steve Centanni of Washington were seized in Gaza City on Aug. 14. Their captors demanded the release of all Muslims imprisoned by the U.S. by midnight Saturday (5 p.m. EDT) in exchange for freeing the Fox journalists.

The kidnappers, from a previously unknown group, did not say what they would do to the journalists if the deadline passed without their demands being met.

On Friday, the Palestinian interior minister suggested some progress had been made in securing the hostages' freedom. Ghazi Hamad, the government spokesman, added Saturday: ``I hope that we can hear good news within the coming two days.''

Hamad did not give the basis for his assessment.

Later the Interior Ministry spokesman said the journalists were apparently unharmed.

``The information available to us is that they are fine, `` said Khaled Abu Hilal. He said authorities were not negotiating with the kidnappers.

``I want to clarify that the efforts are not negotiations,'' he said. ``But we want to get to positive results which is their release and that is all.''

The kidnappers said in a statement seen by The Associated Press that a 72-hour countdown for the release of Muslim prisoners began at midnight Wednesday, meaning the deadline would be midnight Saturday.

However, there appeared to be some confusion among Palestinian officials about the deadline. Interior Ministry officials said they believed the deadline passed at noon Saturday.