Palestinian Gunmen Release Foreign Teachers

Two Dutch and Australian educators kidnapped Wednesday by Palestinian gunmen were released hours after their abduction, witnesses said.

They were seized on their way to work and taken to an undisclosed location. Gunmen with ties to radical PLO faction, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, claimed responsibility, demanding the release of an imprisoned militant leader.

The hostages were released at the Gaza City office of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Students of the American International School in Gaza and their parents whistled, clapped and cheered as Dutch principal Hendrik Taatgen and his Australian deputy, Brian Ambrosio, stepped out of a car.

"I think that today is a bad memory for us," Ambrosio said. "We need somehow to get away from this bad memory, so we can contribute again to build the future of Gaza at this difficult time."

About 100 students are enrolled in the elite private school, north of Gaza City. The abduction took place on the last day of school before the Christmas break.

On Tuesday, a group of gunmen threatened to abduct foreigners if their demands to be folded into the Palestinian security services were not met. These armed men denied involvement in Wednesday's kidnapping.

Militant groups have kidnapped foreigners in increasingly chaotic Gaza recently, usually as bargaining chips to get relatives released from Palestinian prisons, secure jobs from the Palestinian Authority or settle personal scores. The kidnappings have all been brief, and the hostages have all been released unharmed.