New Zealand's prime minister on Thursday welcomed news that a New Zealand cameraman and his American colleague were alive more than a week after being abducted in Gaza, but said her government would pay no ransom to secure their freedom.
A previously unknown group on Wednesday released video of Fox News journalists Olaf Wiig, 36, of New Zealand and Centanni, 60, of Washington DC, Nine days after they were snatched by gunmen from a Gaza City street.
The group calling itself the Holy Jihad Brigades demanded the release of Muslim prisoners in US jails within 72 hours.
"The New Zealand government doesn't negotiate over such demands," Prime Minister Helen Clark said Thursday. "New Zealand doesn't offer money" To release hostages, she added, so money "Won't be coming from New Zealand, that's not the way we operate."
Clark said the video was the first information about the men since they were captured.
"I am pleased that they appear to be well and that they say they are being treated reasonably," Clark said.
"Nevertheless, I remain deeply concerned for their safety. They are in a very difficult situation. Our thoughts are with them and their families."
Wiig's family said in a statement released by New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Thursday, "we are relieved to have it confirmed that Olaf and Steve are alive and well and we wait anxiously for their release."
New Zealand senior diplomat Peter Rider, speaking from Jerusalem, said Wiig's wife, BBC journalist Anita McNaught, "was delighted" at the videotape's release.
"She was so pleased to see Olaf there, on TV, talking to her," he told New Zealand's National Radio.
Rider, sent to the region to head New Zealand efforts to have the pair freed, said authorities searching for the pair knew nothing about the Holy Jihad Brigades.
"It's a new name to everybody I've talked to," he said. "But we'll be working with Palestinian authorities and others to try to work out who they are and identify those who are responsible."
Palestinian security officials said they were analyzing the video and had turned to religious experts for help in deciphering the poetic verses from the Quran, Islam's holy book, in the statement.
Clark announced a senior police officer had been sent to the region to work with the two diplomats already on the ground in Israel and Gaza working on the case. Rider said the group's demand for the release of Muslim prisoners held by the United States would not be met.
"The United States ... stated ... it does not negotiate with militant groups or terrorists and it's called very firmly for the release of the two hostages," he said.