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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Canadian reporter kidnapped at gunpoint in Somalia

A freelance journalist from Alberta has been abducted at gunpoint near the Somali capital of Mogadishu, her father said Saturday.

Amanda Lindhout, 27, had recently arrived in the country with an Australian friend, a man who has also been kidnapped, her father, John Lindhout, told Global National in a telephone interview from his home in Sylvan Lake, Alta.

Lindhout said his information has come from the Department of Foreign Affairs, which has been in contact with him throughout the day. By Saturday evening, the department had not yet publicly confirmed the kidnapped woman's identity.

The High Commission of Canada in Kenya is aware of news reports indicating that a Canadian and an Australian journalist are missing in Somalia," Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Eugenie Cormier-Lassonde said. "Consular officials are in contact with local authorities in an attempt to confirm these reports."

Amanda Lindhout, who has been based in Baghdad, had been on a tour through Africa to put together freelance reports for a French television network. She had been hoping to sell her stories to Canadian broadcasters, as well.

"I work with a team of professionals that I have hired locally, and I have packaged together several 2.5-min reports from Ethiopia and Kenya," Lindhout wrote to Global National in a recent e-mail. "Next week I am going to Somalia to report on the deteriorating security situation as well as the food crisis, which has affected 2.6 million there."

Lindhout started out her career as a photographer and has posted some of her work on the Internet. Since then, she has also worked in Iraq as the Baghdad correspondent for an Iranian television broadcaster, but quit in May to work as a freelancer.

The last entry on her Facebook social networking page, posted Friday, said, "Livin' it up in Mogadishu Somalia."

Since news of Lindhout's possible kidnapping broke, friend have been posting messages on her site, saying they are praying for her and praying that it's not she who has been kidnapped.

Omar Faruk Osman, secretary general of the National Union of Somali Journalists, said in an interview from Mogadishu that his organization has been in touch with the family of Lindhout's "fixer" - typically a local person who helps foreign journalists find their way around and serves as an interpreter. So far, they have been unsuccessful in pinning down details of the two Westerners' disappearance, and who may have been involved.

"They are missing," Osman said. "They were taken, diverted from their car and their fixer" about 15 kilometres outside Mogadishu.

"We know that they didn't come back to their hotel. It was supposed to have been midday and now it's almost 10 in the evening, you know, that they have been missing. . . . But we don't know who is responsible and where they are."

Somalia, torn apart by civil war since 1991, "is most dangerous, and particularly when it comes to foreign journalists," Osman said, adding they are vulnerable to attack by two distinct groups.

One group wants to send a message to the outside world that no authority is truly in control of Somalia, he explained. Kidnapping a foreign journalist, he said, helps "make a lot of noise."

The second group, he explained, doesn't want journalists to see the "conflict, suffering and violence" that prevail in Somalia, and report back on it to their audiences.

"They want to silence the journalists who are the witnesses to these things," Osman said.

In Ottawa, meanwhile, the Foreign Affairs Department advises against all travel in Somalia. The travel advisory, updated July 11 but still valid now, cautions that "Canadians in this country should leave."

The advisory goes on to say that "Canadians who are in Somalia despite this warning, and who are confronted with an emergency, will have to make their way to the nearest embassy or consulate of Canada, or rely on their own resources."

Foreign Affairs also warns: "There is a high security threat in Somalia. Killings and kidnappings continue to occur in all areas of the country and there have been targeted assassinations of foreigners, including journalists, human rights activists, and humanitarian workers."

"The rule of law is virtually non-existent. Outbreaks of violence can arise unpredictably and parties involved are often armed. These violent incidents have resulted in civilian casualties."

Somalia has lacked an effective government since 1991 and Islamists are engaged in guerrilla warfare and deadly clashes with Somali government forces, Ethiopian troops and African Union peacekeepers. The abduction of journalists and humanitarian workers is common and kidnappings are often associated with ransom demands.

With files from Global National

here is some of her work i found

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