Kidnapped journo 'safe,' Abbas tells BBC chief

But West Bank trip yields no release

BBC director general Mark Thompson on Thursday said he has been assured by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas that kidnapped BBC Gaza reporter Alan Johnston is "safe and well."

Speaking at a Thursday press conference in Ramallah on Palestine's West Bank after meeting with Abbas on Wednesday, Thompson said he had discussed efforts to secure Johnston's release with the Palestinian premier.

"Yesterday, I met with President Abbas. He told me he had credible evidence that Alan is safe and well," he said, according to wire reports. "He also assured me that the Palestinian authorities are fully engaged and working to solve the case. In particular, he made it clear that he had put the new interior minister in charge of efforts to free Alan."

The BBC's Gaza correspondent was kidnapped by armed gunmen one month ago and, despite efforts to identify his location and kidnappers, Thompson conceded that the BBC has little idea of his whereabouts.

Thompson told reporters that Johnston's BBC colleagues were becoming increasingly concerned about the "mental and physical toll" Johnston may be suffering after being held captive for a month without being able to contact friends or family.

Thompson confirmed that the BBC has not received any ransom demand from Johnston's captors.

"We have had no contact whatsoever with those holding Alan. No demands have been received by us," he said. "We have no confirmed information (on who's holding Johnston) because we have had no contact."
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