Abbas: BBC correspondent Johnston is alive

Hopes for the release of kidnapped BBC journalist Alan Johnston rose today when the Palestinian President repeated his belief that he was still alive.

President Mahmoud Abbas said intelligence services have confirmed that the veteran reporter was alive.

"Yes, I believe he is still alive," President Abbas told reporters in Stockholm. "Our intelligence services have confirmed to me that he's alive."

President Abbas said he knew which group was holding Johnston, but declined to give details.

The 44-year-old correspondent has been missing for more than a month after he was abducted by masked gunmen as he returned to his apartment in Gaza city.

President Abbas told BBC director general Mark Thompson last week that he believed Johnston was safe, although a previously unknown Palestinian group, The Brigades of Tawheed and Jihad, sent a statement to news organisations at the weekend claiming it had killed the Scot.

His father, Graham Johnston, welcomed today's reports that his son is alive.

Speaking from his home in Cairndow, Argyll, he said: "That's good news, that's really good news. The other day was the worst day of my life.

"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."

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