West Bank kidnap drama over cartoons
Palestinian gunmen seized and later released a German after militants
threatened violence and demanded an apology for caricatures of Prophet
Muhammad that appeared in European newspapers.
The rare kidnapping in the occupied West Bank took Muslim anger to a new
level in a controversy over balancing Western freedom of the press with
In the Gaza Strip, where tensions are also high, a hand grenade was
thrown into the compound of the French Cultural Centre. No one was hurt
in the night-time incident, security officials said.
Palestinian security officials said gunmen from a militant faction in
President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction seized Christoph Kasten, 21,
from a hotel coffee shop in the city of Nablus and took him to an empty
field before releasing him.
There was no immediate word from the kidnappers on their motives, but
the security officials said the militants were showing their anger at
publication of the cartoons in Denmark, Norway, France, Germany and Spain.
Islamic tradition prohibits realistic depictions of prophets, and
considers caricatures of them blasphemous.
"Yes, I am OK," Kasten, an English teacher, told reporters in the
offices of the Preventive Security agency in Nablus. "Two Palestinian
gunmen asked me to go with them. I didn't know where. They did not make
any demands. After a while, they put me in a taxi and told me the taxi
would take me to the police."
Earlier, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed faction in the Fatah
movement, threatened in a news conference to kidnap citizens of France,
Denmark and Norway if they did not leave Nablus within 72 hours.