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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 April 2007, 20:16 GMT 21:16 UK
Missing BBC correspondent 'alive'
Alan Johnston
Alan Johnston has been held captive for more than month
Missing BBC reporter Alan Johnston is still alive, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas says.

"Our intelligence services have confirmed to me that he's alive," Mr Abbas told reporters in Sweden.

Johnston, 44, has not been seen since he was seized at gunpoint on his way home in Gaza City on 12 March.

On Sunday, an unknown militant group said it had killed him, but the BBC said and Palestinian officials said they could not verify the claim.

Mr Abbas said he knew which group was holding Mr Johnston but did not give any details.

In Gaza, a senior security official said the earlier reports of Mr Johnston's death were unfounded.

Mohammed al-Masri said that the available evidence suggested that he was alive and in secure conditions.

'Good news'

Mr Johnston's father, Graham, said he was delighted at the report.

"That's good news, that's really good news," he said.

"This is the news I've been waiting to hear and I don't think the Palestinian president would say this unless he was convinced it was true.

"But we still don't have proof of life. That's what I want desperately. It's been nearly six weeks now."

In a statement, the BBC also welcomed the report, adding that it wanted "firm evidence of Alan's well-being and his immediate release".

The signs are encouraging, but Gaza is a fractured, lawless place where truth and rumour are hard to distinguish, says the BBC's Keith Adams.

Protests against Mr Johnston's kidnap have been held in Britain, the Palestinian territories and other parts of the Middle East almost daily since his abduction.

On Wednesday, a leader of Mr Abbas' Fatah movement jailed in Israel, Marwan Barghouti, added his voice to calls for the reporter's release.

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