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Last Updated: Saturday, 31 December 2005, 09:40 GMT
Kidnapped Britons freed in Gaza
Kate Burton at the Erez crossing between Gaza and Israel
The Burtons were taken across the border to Israel and into Jerusalem
A British human rights worker kidnapped in Gaza with her parents has spoken of their ordeal following their release.

Kate Burton, 24, told the BBC they were treated well by their kidnappers during the two-and-a-half days they were held, but that her parents were "tired".

Their captors, a previously unheard of group called the Mujahadeen Brigades, released a video denouncing the UK and threatening to take more hostages.

The family, of Newbury, Berkshire, are in Jerusalem with UK consular staff.

We thank everyone who has worked so tirelessly towards this moment
Burton family

Ms Burton told BBC correspondent Alan Johnston the family had been moved three times in two days by their captors, who remained masked throughout.

She spoke of her sadness that her parents had had such a "desperate experience" during their visit to Gaza, but said she hoped to continue her human rights work there.

Ms Burton, who works for the Palestinian Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, also told the BBC Arabic service she and her parents had been held in Rafah, southern Gaza.

She added that she could not say a bad word about her captors, who always asked whether they needed anything.

'Overjoyed'

The UK Foreign Office, who had a team of diplomats in Gaza, said it was pleased to confirm Kate, Hugh and Win (Helen) Burton had been freed and were "well and in good spirits".

"They are currently with officials in our consulate general in Jerusalem who are providing them with all necessary help and care."

Officials thanked those who had helped secure the family's release.

The Burtons' wider family in the UK said they were "overjoyed" to hear they were safe.

"We thank everyone who has worked so tirelessly towards this moment, especially Kate's colleagues and friends in Gaza who kept all our hopes up throughout this ordeal.

"We do not forget the wider situation in Gaza, but right now we are looking forward to being together as a family very soon," they said.

Hugh Burton being taken to a diplomatic car after his release
Hugh Burton was kidnapped along with daughter Kate and wife Helen

The Muslim Association of Britain, which was planning to send an emissary to Gaza to seek the family's release, said: "We are very relieved and joyful."

They said they hoped the same steps could be followed in Iraq, where Briton Norman Kember and his colleagues are still being held. There has been no news of the 74 year old since earlier this month.

The video apparently made by the Burtons' kidnappers and delivered to a TV company in Gaza on Friday evening, showed a masked gunman reading a statement while standing next to Ms Burton.

'Despicable'

BBC correspondent Jo Floto said the statement, roughly translated, said the British government bore responsibility for what had happened to the Palestinians since 1918.

The previously unknown group made a list of demands and urged Britain to put pressure on Israel.

They said if their demands were not met they would capture international observers in the forthcoming elections.

They said they had freed the three Britons in what they described as a gesture of good faith.

Earlier Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told BBC News 24 he hoped this would be the last such incident, as kidnapping harmed the Palestinians' interests.

Kate Burton in a video released by the family's captors
Their captors released a video shortly before freeing the family

"I am happy this despicable and shameful act is over," he said.

Ms Burton's friend and work colleague Ghada Snunu said her role as international co-ordinator at the human rights centre was very important.

"She is responsible for contacting donors, writing reports to them, fundraising, proposal-writing and editing English documents.

"Losing her is losing something really very, very essential," she told the BBC.

Terry Waite, who was held hostage in Beirut for five years, told the BBC it would be a "very sad day indeed" if the kidnapping meant people like Kate no longer worked in the Palestinian territories.

'Needed'

Jocelyn Hurndall, the mother of student photographer Tom Hurndall who was shot dead by an Israeli soldier, also said the kidnappers had done a great "disservice to their cause".

She added: "Kate is exactly the kind of person who is needed in a place like Gaza."

Ms Burton, who speaks Arabic, French and Spanish, is understood to have been showing her parents around Rafah, near the border with Egypt, when they were kidnapped.

UK Muslim groups and the Palestinian Authority had condemned the kidnaps, and Palestinians had demonstrated to vent their anger at the abductions.




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