August 27, 2006

Fox Journalists Released - Amateur Hour in Gaza

Good news is that two Fox News journalists were released after almost two weeks of being held by a previously unknown group calling itself the Holy Jihad Brigades.

The pair, American Steve Centanni and New Zealander Olaf Wiig, were set free after they made a videotape in which they claimed that they had converted to Islam. Their captors said the two had a choice of conversion, paying the jaziyah (non-Muslim) tax, or going to war. In his statement, Centanni said he had "embraced Islam" and changed his name to Khalid.

Wiig also made a similar conversion statement and name change to Ya'qub, also claiming the (President) Bush's statement that he is in a war with Islamic fascism was not helpful, that the people of Gaza have been living in a large prison for years - that sort of thing.

One has to wonder about the sophistication of the Holy Jihad Brigades. Does anyone believe that these two journalists have truly converted to Islam after two weeks of captivity? Even more basic, why did this unknown group seize two journalists who had gone to Gaza at personal risk to cover the Palestinian side of the ongoing conflict in the wake of the June kidnapping of an Israeli soldier? This is a sure-fire way to engender people to your cause.

The kidnappers waited a week before releasing a video in which the pair stated they were being well-treated - all signs indicate that was the case. The kidnappers demands that all Muslim prisoners being held in American jails be released indicates that these are not a very savvy bunch - no one could possibly think this was going to happen. Also interesting is the fact that they did not make demands of Israel, which up until now has been the standard demand - this is the first kidnapping by a Palestinian group in Gaza that has made demands of the United States.
That begs the question - was this kidnapping done by a Palestinian group? When the demands were made of the United States by a heretofore unknown group with an Islamic name, plus the facts that one of the journalists was an American and that Fox News is an American news outlet led to speculation that this might be an Al-Qa'idah operation.

In my view, two things mitigate against that. First, Al-Qa'idah is not known to operate in Gaza, in fact, the Hamas-affiliated Palestinian prime minister said that there was no Al-Qa'idah presence in the Gaza Strip. Secondly, Al-Qa'idah is much more sophisticated than these guys appear to be.

This looks like some Al-Qa'idah, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, 'Izz Ad-Din Al-Qasam Brigades wannabes who jumped in way over their heads.