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Last Updated: Saturday, 7 July 2007, 19:43 GMT 20:43 UK
BBC's Johnston back with family
Alan Johnston
The BBC's Gaza correspondent was held for 114 days

Freed BBC reporter Alan Johnston has been reunited with his family following his return to the UK.

Mr Johnston, 45, travelled to the family home in Lochgoil, Argyll, after arriving at London's Heathrow Airport.

Speaking alongside his family, he said: "Coming home has just never felt so very good as it does today."

He was handed over to Palestinian militant movement Hamas in Gaza City on Wednesday after being held hostage for 114 days by the Army of Islam group.

He had been taken at gunpoint on 12 March while on his way home in Gaza.

It is a relief, the sense that this strange, dark period is coming to an end
Alan Johnston

Mr Johnston said: "It really is hard to believe that just four days ago I was back in that cell in the depths of Gaza City and here I am back with my family in this beautiful, peaceful place."

He added: "In the first and roughest weeks of the kidnap one of the hardest things to deal with was the strain and stress that I knew that I was putting on my parents.

"I felt that I had brought the very worst of the world's troubles into their normally peaceful lives."

He said it was the "strangest thing" to be the focus of a story.

Speaking to journalists, he said: "It is a relief, the sense that this strange, dark period is coming to an end, and it will be very good to be back in there with you lads on the other side of the microphone quite soon."

Shuttered room

Earlier, he said at one point during his captivity he had been kept in chains for 24 hours but that he had not been harmed physically until the last half hour of his captivity, when his captors roughed him up "a bit".

Alan Johnston
A triumphant Johnston family greet the cameras

He said he had been able to see the sun in the first month, but was then kept in a shuttered room until a week before his release.

Mr Johnston, who has spent the last few days at the British Consulate in Jerusalem, said he had not been tortured during captivity but he did fall ill from the food he was served.

He touched down at Heathrow at about 1230 BST (1130 GMT) on a flight from Tel Aviv.

'Normal life'

Rallies worldwide had called for his release and an online petition was signed by some 200,000 people.

Mr Johnston said he had been comforted by the efforts to free him, which he knew about because he had access to the BBC World Service on the radio for much of his confinement.

He described the experience as frightening "because I didn't know how it was going to end", but said he had never considered escape as a real possibility.

Mr Johnston said that during his captivity "it became quite hard to imagine normal life again".

"The last 16 weeks have been the very worst of my life," he added.

"I was in the hands of people who were dangerous and unpredictable.

"I literally dreamed many times of being free and always woke up back in that room."

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