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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Reporter Kidnapped in Gaza

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Masked Palestinians have kidnapped a BBC reporter at gunpoint from his car in Gaza City, Palestinian security officials said.

As he was being taken, the journalist threw a business card on the street that identified him as Alan Johnston of the BBC, the officials said.

The BBC press office in London issued a brief statement saying it was "currently unable to contact him and are concerned for his safety. We are trying to gather as much information as possible."

On Monday, four gunmen carried out the kidnapping, and Johnston's car was found abandoned near his Gaza City apartment, said the security officials, who asked that their names not be used as they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Police found the lease of the rental car, which stated that the vehicle was rented to the BBC.

After the kidnapping, Palestinian security forces set up spotty security checks on roads leading out of Gaza City to the south.

No one claimed responsibility for the abduction.

In Gaza City, a spokesman for Hamas, the Islamic militant group which heads the Palestinian government, condemned the kidnapping.

"We call on these criminal groups to stop this destruction of our reputation and to let this journalist free," spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said.

Palestinian Interior Minister Said Siyam said in a statement on the Hamas web site that security branches under his control were investigating the incident.

"There are suspicious figures behind this kidnapping," Siyam said, without elaborating.

The BBC said Johnston was from Scotland and had been reporting from Gaza for the past three years. The BBC bureau chief in Jerusalem, Simon Wilson, said he could not confirm a kidnapping.

The Tel Aviv-based Foreign Press Association, which represents foreign journalists in Israel and the Palestinian areas, appealed for Johnston's immediate release.

"We ask all in Gaza to respect the rights and safety of the press," the FPA said in a statement.