BBC reporter 'safe,' Abbas tells Thompson


LONDON -- BBC director general Mark Thompson said Thursday that 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 in the West Bank after meeting with Abbas on Wednesday, Thompson said he had discussed efforts to secure Johnson's release with the Palestinian president.

"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 exactly 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."