Freed BBC correspondent Alan Johnston has expressed his gratitude and surprise at the support he received via the BBC’s online petition that demanded his release.

Johnston was handed over to Palestinian militant group Hamas yesterday after spending 114 days in captivity, and admitted he was fearful that the world might forget him after he was kidnapped in April.

However, the BBC has revealed that its online petition was signed by 200,000 people from around the world, and the broadcaster continued to provide weekly updates on the level of support until July 4.

"We, the undersigned, demand the immediate release of BBC Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston. We ask again that everyone with influence on this situation increase their efforts, to ensure that Alan is freed quickly and unharmed," said the petition.

The BBC's Have Your Say site was being inundated with comments from well-wishers this morning. The message board set up shortly after Johnson was kidnapped received 12,024 comments, while a new one put online yesterday to allow web users to discuss his release has already attracted 4790 comments.