Palestinian gunmen on Tuesday seized three French citizens in the West Bank, freeing them after several hours. The men were apparently a French diplomat and his two bodyguards.
A few hours after the kidnap, gunmen handed the diplomat and his bodyguards over to another French envoy. A reporter saw them leave a building a short time later.
A spokesman for al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, affiliated with President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction, said weapons carried by the bodyguards had initially raised suspicions about the men. He added that the men had claimed they were French tourists.
Prior to their release, an Associated Press reporter managed to enter the house in Nablus Old City where the three men were being held. He said they were speaking French, unmasked and appeared unharmed as they sat on a couch. Dozens of gunmen were inside the house and had surrounded the area.
Witnesses said the French men had been eating in a restaurant when they were captured. They said shots were fired in the air as the men, with their heads covered, were led away by gunmen through the winding alleyways of Nablus' Old City.
Palestinian armed groups have kidnapped a string of foreigners in the Gaza Strip in recent months, but
abductions in the West Bank have been rare. Last November, gunmen seized an American volunteer English teacher, releasing him unharmed the next day.
In February, during the storm over the Danish newspaper caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, a German volunteer was abducted and held for several hours.