<!--:es-->Palestinian gunmen kidnap AP photographer in Gaza<!--:-->

Palestinian gunmen kidnap AP photographer in Gaza

GAZA – Palestinian gunmen kidnapped a Spanish photographer working for the Associated Press news agency in the Gaza Strip Tuesday, the AP said.

Emilio Morenatti, 37, was heading out of his apartment to an AP car when four gunmen grabbed him, put him in another vehicle and drove away, the AP said, citing one of its drivers who witnessed the incident.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

“We are making searches in the area,” a Palestinian security source said.

Morenatti, from Jerez, Spain, had been working for the news agency in Jerusalem since 2005, the AP said.

Officials of the Hamas-led Palestinian government demanded Morenatti’s swift release.

Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas condemned the kidnapping and vowed his government would “try to resolve this as soon as possible so the journalist will return to his family and friends.”

“We have called on the kidnappers to release the kidnapped journalist and not harm him, and to end this situation as soon as possible,” Haniyeh told reporters at his Gaza home after he met with Karin Laub, the AP’s news editor for Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, said earlier that the abduction “does not serve the Palestinian cause.”

“We stress that these actions are against our culture and against our religion,” Barhoum said.

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos said he had contacted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other Palestinian officials over the kidnapping.

“We are doing what we can to free the Spanish photographer as quickly as possible,” Moratinos told reporters in Madrid.

Previous kidnappings of foreigners have usually ended after a few hours, or at most a few days, of captivity.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a U.S.-based media watchdog, urged the kidnappers to free Morenatti and called on Palestinian officials to help secure his release.

“We’re dismayed that journalists have become pawns of Palestinian groups seeking to exploit them for political purposes,” Joel Simon, the committee’s executive director, said.

Earlier this month, unknown gunmen kidnapped a U.S. student volunteer in the West Bank but released him hours later.

Two journalists working for the U.S. Fox News channel were abducted in the Gaza Strip in August. They were held by militants for two weeks before being freed.