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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chechnya's Chief Prosecutor Kidnapped Outside Grozny

GROZNY -- Chechnya's top prosecutor, the man who was investigating the killings of four kidnapped foreigners, has himself been abducted by unidentified assailants, officials said Friday.

Mansur Tagirov vanished Thursday evening while returning to Chechnya's capital, Grozny, from a small village nearby, news reports said.

Officials at the prosecutor's office said Tagirov was seized by attackers, and they speculated that it was the work of an armed band seeking the release of one of their members from prison.

Tagirov was investigating the deaths of four foreigners whose severed heads were found Tuesday lined up by a roadside in the breakaway Russian republic.

The victims - Peter Kennedy, Darren Hickey and Rudolf Petschi of Britain and Stanley Shaw of New Zealand - had been abducted Oct. 3 by unidentified gunmen in Grozny.

It was not clear if there was any link between Tagirov's abduction and his investigation into the killings of the four men.

Meanwhile, Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Turpal Atgeriyev said authorities had arrested a man, and they said he had confessed to kidnapping the four foreigners. The suspect was identified as Apti Abitayev, Itar-Tass said.

Chechen security forces were still searching Friday for more suspects as well as the bodies of the four foreigners.

Atgeriyev said he did not place any value in a videotape showing one of the victims saying he was spying for Britain.

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

The videotape, shown Thursday by Chechnya's vice president, showed hostage Peter Kennedy claiming that the four men had been sent to Chechnya to listen in on phone conversations in the breakaway republic. Chechen officials refused to answer any questions about the tape, including where or when it was filmed and how the government got it.

The British Embassy in Moscow was trying to obtain the tape, spokesman Michael Haddock said Friday.