Kidnapped BBC reporter Alan Johnston is believed to be alive and held by a Palestinian clan in the Gaza Strip demanding a $5 million ransom, according to senior Palestinian security officials speaking to WND.
The information follows claims by a previously unknown Islamist group this weekend that it killed the British reporter.
Palestinian security officials said their information indicates Johnston, who was kidnapped March 12, is being held by members of the Dugmash clan, a powerful Gaza-based Palestinian family affiliated with local terrorist organizations and ideologically aligned with global jihad groups.
According to Palestinian security officials, Johnston's captors are demanding a $5 million ransom and have threatened to either sell Johnston to another group or kill him if the ransom is not paid.
The officials said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other parties involved in the investigations were hesitant to allow the ransom to be paid for fear the money would be used to enhance the position of the Dugmash clan against other Gaza-based factions, including Abbas' Fatah organization.
"We are sure any ransom money will be used to purchase weapons and make the Dugmash's stronger," said a top Palestinian security official.
A leading member of a Palestinian terrorist organization said to be close to the Dugmash clan told WND he was aware of the $5 million ransom.
On Sunday, a group calling itself the Brigades of Tawheed and Jihad sent a statement to news organizations claiming it had killed Johnston. The group was not previously known to operate in Gaza; its namesake has been used elsewhere in the Middle East, including in Iraq, by organizations linked to al-Qaeda.
Israeli and Palestinian security officials told WND the murder claim likely was an attempt by the kidnappers to exert pressure for the ransom to be paid.
"We have indications the Dugmash's are even willing to sell Johnston to another group if there is interest. They will sell to the highest bidder," said a Palestinian security official.
Israeli and Palestinian security officials said the Dugmash clan was strongly suspected of kidnapping two Fox News reporters in Gaza in August held for two weeks but later released.
At the time, WND quoted security officials and top terrorist leaders claiming a ransom had been paid for the two. Fox News strongly denied knowledge of any ransom payment.
Reprinted with the permission of WorldNetDaily