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Learning English - Words in the News
04 July, 2007 - Published 15:59 GMT
Alan Johnston freed
Alan Johnston

Early this morning BBC correspondent Alan Johnston was released after nearly four months as a prisoner in Gaza. He was abducted by gunmen on March 12th and was held by a group calling itself the Army of Islam. These reports from Catherine Davis and Tim Franks:

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Catherine Davis
At last, the moment family, friends and colleagues have been anxiously waiting for. After weeks of rumour, speculation and concern at the lack of concrete information Alan Johnston is finally free.

His disappearance on March 12th was widely condemned. Week after week, Palestinian journalists held protests on Alan's behalf. At one point they even went on strike, urging their government to do more to secure his release. And journalists elsewhere also drew attention to Alan's plight. There were vigils in Beijing, in Jakarta, in Brussels and in London. At the BBC offices in London, colleagues gathered every Monday to mark the exact moment Alan disappeared. A huge poster of him was unveiled in one of the city's main squares. More than sixty-five thousand people worldwide signed an online petition calling for him to be freed. And appeals were made at the highest levels.

Tim Franks
It is, said Alan Johnston, the most fantastic thing to be free. His captivity had been an appalling experience, he said. He didn't know when it was going to end. He had literally dreamt about being released, but had woken up back in the room where he had been held.

In typical fashion, Alan Johnston expressed regret and gratitude. Regret that he'd put his parents on the west coast of Scotland through such destruction and gratitude at the level of support he'd received from people across the world. Alan described himself as extraordinarily fortunate. His ordeal of nearly four months is over.

Listen to the words

guessing even if you don't have enough information to be certain

the lack of concrete information
no clear and certain facts were available

was widely condemned
a lot of people criticized something (here, the kidnapping)

went on strike
refused to work as usual as a way of showing your feelings about something (usually workers go on strike because they want more money or better working conditions)

to secure his release
to make sure he was freed

colleagues gathered
a group of people who work together met

an online petition
an electronic document or letter which a lot of people sign to demand some action from the government or another authority (in this case, that Alan be freed)

exactly, truly, not used as a metaphor

regret and gratitude
sadness and thankfulness

act of causing a lot of damage to something or someone

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