Kidnapped reporter Alan Johnston held by Dagmoush clan - his future looks grim

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Kidnapped reporter Alan Johnston held by Dagmoush clan - his future looks grim

Facinating background to the kidnapping. Gaza is divided by clans and clan warfare. Alan Johnston is held by a smaller clan, but one with weapons and strength, and a history of kidnapping westerners and Israelis. He is a sort of Human Shield, while Dagmoush hold him, Hamas dare not attack Dagmoush. As soon as he is gone, Hamas will try and wipe the clan out.

Dagmoush operates in the best tradition of the cosa nostra. The family numbers some 2,500 members, making it one of the smaller clans in Gaza, where people can sometimes have as many as 5,000 or even 7,000 people in their extended families.

What makes the Dagmoush clan so dangerous is its cohesion and enormous arsenal of weapons.

Mumtaz Dagmoush is the clan's godfather. He earned his credentials as a militia leader during the second Intifada, from 2000 onward, as the strategist of the Public Resistance Committee (PRC), half of which is close to Hamas. But he was not rewarded by Hamas when the time came to replace the PRC's slain leader.

That was when the disappointed leader created his own militia, the Army of Islam, with the blessing of Hamas, according to a source close to the Palestinian intelligence service. The militia is said to consist almost exclusively of Dagmoush clan members. It is also said to pursue criminal rather than religious or political goals.

The Army of Islam made its first appearance with the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit one year ago. The Army of Islam, Hamas and the PRC said at the time that they had planned and executed the kidnapping together.

The final split between Mumtaz Dagmoush and Hamas came a few weeks later, in August of 2006. Dagmoush's Army of Islam kidnapped two journalists from the US network Fox News.

After a two-week hostage drama, the militia received a ransom of between $450,000 and $1.2 million, according to rumors. "It goes to show they're not pro-Islam: They're pro-dollar," says one source.

Johnston has been a kind of life insurance policy for the Dagmoush clan ever since. Hamas cannot afford the death of a foreign journalist in "Hamastan," which it has supposedly pacified, and Dagmoush has threatened to kill Johnston if attacked.

In the past few days, Hamas members have reported that their Islamic militia is in the process of tightening the noose around the Dagmoush stronghold. A battle is approaching, they say. The members of the Dagmoush clan know they have surrendered their right to live, Hamas sources say.

They are convinced the Dagmoush clan will not release the British journalist voluntarily.

... Quote:
When he's free, they're finished, they're trying to find the one who wants to save their skin.
one Hamas source says. Hamas is currently trying to discover Johnston's exact location -- by offering informants safety guarantees and money. They are hoping to avoid a bloodbath by means of a targeted operation to free the journalist.

Prelude to the Final Battle

The Deraui clan's attack on the Dagmoush clan is the prelude to the final battle, according to sources in Gaza City on Sunday.

The tactic seems to have had an effect -- but not the one hoped for. Instead of offering a cease-fire and releasing the BBC journalist, the clan has prepared for a showdown battle, which one of the two sides -- presumably the Dagmoush clan -- will not survive.

The video released on Sunday evening, which shows a frightened Johnston wearing an alleged bomb belt, is a sign that the kidnappers are increasingly desperate.

The skirmishes had died down again on Monday morning, but nevertheless the hope of a peaceful solution is dwindling.

"The positions on both sides are hardening. Hamas will never forgive the Dagmoush clan," says a source close to Hamas. The chances that Johnston will survive a violent liberation attempt are getting slimmer and slimmer. "The bomb belt shows the Dagmoush clan stops at nothing."
By netchicken: posted on 27-6-2007

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