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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Abducted UN Official Alive

The president of North Ossetia, Alexander Dzasokhov, said Friday he had information that the kidnapped head of the UNHCR office in Vladikavkaz was alive but ill, Itar-Tass reported.

"At the present time, we are completely sure that Vincent Cochetel is alive, but regrettably he is ill," Dzasokhov said without revealing his source.

"The question of his release will be decided soon," he added.

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Moscow declined to comment on the report.

UNHCR spokeswoman Judith Kumin said earlier Friday in Geneva, however, that the agency had received a report that Cochetel was "alive and well," but still has no idea why, where or by whom he is being held.

Cochetel, a 37-year-old French national who heads UNHCR's large regional office in North Ossetia, was seized by three masked gunmen in his apartment in the local capital, Vladikavkaz, on Jan. 29.

Kumin said senior North Ossetian officials had told UNHCR earlier in the week that Cochetel was alive.

"[Thursday] we received firm evidence that he was alive and well,'' she said. "For reasons related to the investigation we cannot say anything further for the time being.''

She said the evidence that Cochetel was alive was not linked to any specific demands.

Two men, including Cochetel's driver, were in detention helping investigators with their inquiries, but neither has been charged.

The driver was left behind when the armed gang burst into the Frenchman's apartment.