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Friday, December 11, 1998 Published at 11:05 GMT

World: Europe

Missing Chechen prosecutor returns

The Chechen prosecutor general, who was reported missing on Friday morning, has returned to the capital Grozny, according to the Russian Interfax news agency.

Quoting officials in the prosecutor's office, it said Mansur Tagirov had turned up safe and well in the capital of the breakaway Russian republic.

The alarm had been raised by Chechen officials, who said he had failed to return to Grozny from a visit to an outlying village on Thursday evening.

Mr Tagirov was investigating the murder of four foreign telecommunications engineers - three Britons and a New Zealander - whose decapitated heads were found by a roadside on Tuesday.

The victims - Peter Kennedy, Darren Hickey and Rudolf Petschi of Britain and Stanley Shaw of New Zealand - had been abducted from Grozny on 3 October.

One of the suspected hostage-takers has been arrested by Chechen police.

Chechnya has been dubbed the kidnap capital of the world.

Since its two-year independence war with Russia which ended in 1996, the Caucasus region has been awash in violence as feuding gangs wage bloody turf wars.

Most of the kidnappings have been carried out for ransom.

Spying allegations dismissed

The Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Turpal Atgeriyev said the suspect arrested over the abductions had confessed to kidnapping the four foreigners.

The Itar-Tass news agency identified the man as Apti Abitayev.

Mr Atgeriyev dismissed a videotape that showed one of the four victims saying he was spying for Britain.

"There are certain methods that might force a person to confess to any crime," he said.

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