Diplomats try to contact with kidnappers of Britons in Gaza

Diplomats are trying to contact the gunmen who kidnapped a British human rights worker and her parents in Gaza. Kate Burton, 23, from Scotland, was abducted along with her mother and father, who were visiting her. BBC world affairs correspondent David Loyn said it was likely the authorities knew the gunmen, or at least what kind of people were holding the Britons.

They would now try to make contact and establish what the kidnappers were demanding, he said. Diplomats would need to find out whether those holding the trio were asking for a particular local problem to be resolved, or if the kidnap was "part of a wider picture", added our correspondent. The woman's identity - widely reported to be Scot Kate Burton from a Gaza-based human rights group called Al Mezan - has not been officially confirmed.

The three were travelling in a car 200m from the border with Egypt when they were approached by gunmen at about 1600 (1400 GMT) on Wednesday, said police in Rafah. The kidnappers forced them to leave their car and go with them. The abduction of foreigners is not unusual in the area. Hostages are usually released unharmed within hours.

Last week, two foreign teachers were taken by gunmen but quickly freed unscathed. Generally, militant groups use the hostages to press the Palestinian authorities for money, jobs or the release of prisoners. The Foreign Office confirmed there had been a kidnapping but said the details remained unclear.

Frank McGinley, of the British consulate general in Jerusalem, said officials were investigating but had no further comment. The Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights said one of their female volunteers from Britain had lost contact with their office on Wednesday afternoon. Nafiz al Mahdoun told BBC News 24 the missing volunteer worked for the group for the past three months but had been on holiday since 22 December.

"Her parents were visiting her. She was trying to take them around to show them the area," he said. "So (we) are now trying to make our communication with our police and all the political parties, all the concerned people, so we could release her, reports BBC news. I.L.

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