Published August 16, 2006
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – The wife of a kidnapped FOX News cameraman made a public plea Wednesday to his kidnappers to release him and his fellow journalist. Palestinian officials said they have no firm leads on where the two men are being held.
The cameraman, Olaf Wiig, 36, of New Zealand, and American reporter Steve Centanni, 60, were taken Monday from their TV van near the Palestinian security services headquarters. Major militant groups in Gaza have denied involvement and the kidnappers have yet to make any demands.
Wiig's wife, Anita McNaught, appealed to the kidnappers to free her husband and Centanni.
"The bottom line is, there is no good reason for these two men to be held," said McNaught, a freelance television journalist. "They are friends of the Palestinians. They are here telling the Palestinian story for weeks now, when the rest of the world's media has not been here."
Directing her words to her husband in the on-camera interview and choking back tears, McNaught said: "It's going to be all right. You are going to come home to me."
The ruling Hamas movement has not played a prominent role in past kidnappings of foreigners. In June, however, Hamas-allied militants abducted an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, in a cross-border raid that triggered a major Israeli offensive in the coastal strip.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Julie Reside said the U.S. is working with Palestinian officials and called for the journalists to be released immediately.
"The U.S. government strongly condemns the kidnapping of these individuals," she said.
Jan Henderson, New Zealand's ambassador to Israel and Turkey, met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Gaza to discuss the incident, and Palestinian lawmaker Saeb Erekat said Abbas reassured Henderson the ordeal would soon be over.
"He is personally leading this effort, and every effort is being exerted to ensure their release," Erekat said.
A Palestinian security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters, said efforts to locate the kidnappers and journalists were concentrated on the Gaza City area.
Palestinian officials said it is unusual for kidnappers not to make any demands for two days. That has made it difficult to trace the abductors, or understand why they kidnapped the journalists, they said.
McNaught said earlier that she was told by Palestinian officials that her husband's captors acted on their own, without support from militant groups.
McNaught said the hardest part of waiting has been the silence on the part of the kidnappers: "It's difficult dealing with no information on how he is," she said.
New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark has expressed her country's deep concern for Wiig's safety.