A Palestinian group claiming it had kidnapped an American youth in Nablus has demanded the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel in exchange for his release.
Palestinian security officials are verifying claims made by an extremist Islamic group that it kidnapped an American youth in the West Bank city of Nablus, officials said Wednesday.
A blurred photocopy of a passport and student card carrying the name Michael Leighton Phillips was sent to the Reuters news agency.
Samah Atout, manager of Project Hope, said she received a call saying Phillips had been kidnapped. She refused to give further details.
An American consulate official said that Phillips was missing but could not confirm that he was kidnapped.
Atout said Phillips was working with Project Hope in refugee camps near the West Bank city of Nablus, teaching English.
Palestinian security officials said all terror groups contacted over the claim denied involvement.
Rabi'a Abu Layl, a senior activist with the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, told Ynet: "Not only we have no contact with them, but we condemn
Abu-Layl added: "This is the first time we hear of this group appearing in Nablus. I believe the statement is not reliable; no Palestinian group would harm international activists, who not only support us, but live among us like Palestinians. We eat with them, drink with them and work with them. It is impossible that a real Palestinian group stands behind the incident."
The Israel Defense Forces confirmed that it received a report that a foreign citizen had been kidnapped but said it remains unclear if he is American or British.
Four months ago Benjamin Bright-Fishbein, a Jewish student of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem studying in an exchange program, was kidnapped in Nablus.
Palestinian groups released a tape showing a youth wearing a kippa saying his kidnappers would kill him if Israel doesn't release Palestinian prisoners.
Few hours after his disappearance he was handed over to the Palestinian security forces and was later released.
Efrat Weiss, news agencies contributed to this report