Missing Gambia journalist 'is alive'

Banjul - Gambian journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh, who disappeared in 2006 after being picked up by men who said they were state intelligence officers, is alive, the justice minister said Monday.

"Chief Ebrima Manneh is alive and we will talk about this case later," Edward Gomez told AFP, confirming earlier reports in the Daily News newspaper.

He said the missing journalist is not being held by the Gambian government, but declined to provide further details.

Manneh worked for the pro-government Daily Observer and sources at the paper have said he was working a story critical of the government before he disappeared.

The Gambian authorities have consistently denied having Manneh in custody.

"We shall talk about this case at a later stage when it is more convenient, when I can prove to you beyond any reasonable doubt," the minister was quoted as saying by the Daily News.

In 2009, the US Senate Appropriations Committee warned Gambia about its harassment of media and named Manneh in an annual spending bill, tying possible future US aid to his release.

Manneh's relatives have long believed the missing writer is dead, a prospect alluded to by Gambia's President Yahya Jammeh in March.

"Let me make it very clear that the government has nothing to do with the death and disappearance of Chief Manneh," Jammeh said at a meeting with Gambian journalists.

The west African nation is often criticised for its poor human rights record and media restrictions.

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