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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Press group expects quick release of hostages

CALGARY -- Death threats with a two-week deadline against a Canadian journalist and Australian photographer kidnapped in Somalia nearly two months ago are an act of desperation that could lead to the quick release of the captives, according to an international journalists group.
Press TV, an Iranian English-language news channel, reported Monday through its Mogadishu correspondent that if a $2.5-million ransom is not paid in 15 days, freelance reporter Amanda Lindhout of Sylvan Lake, Alta., and photojournalist Nigel Brennan of Brisbane would be killed.
Leonard Vincent, who works for the Paris-based group Reporters Without Borders, said the hostage-takers are simply trying to get the attention of Canadian and Australian authorities.
"This shows that they are very nervous and that they are starting to get impatient," he said. "The bills are piling up. This kidnapping is starting to cost them a lot of money. So they are urging for a quick settlement and a quick agreement."


The foreign journalists, along with Somali photographer and interpreter Abdifatah Mohammed Elmi, as well as the group's driver, were kidnapped Aug. 23 just outside Mogadishu.
Constantly moving the hostages to safe houses and guarding and feeding them has forced the captors to give up their day jobs for a long and costly undertaking, Mr. Vincent explained.
"They have in their hands a hot potato," he added. "It starts to be very embarrassing and very long. They didn't expect this to be so long and so complicated." Last month, Al Jazeera television network broadcast video of the kidnapped reporters. The tape showed armed men around the captives and accused Canada and Australia of "taking part in the destruction of Somalia."
Ms. Lindhout, 27, who has reported from Iraq for Press TV, and Mr. Brennan had only arrived in Somalia a few days before they vanished. They left their hotel in the capital bound for a refugee camp about 30 kilometres away. They were apparently ambushed on their way back to the city.
Eugénie Cormier-Lassonde, a spokeswoman with Foreign Affairs Canada, said Ottawa is aware of recent media reports and is working with Australian officials for the safe return of citizens of both countries.
"We cannot release any further information which may jeopardize these efforts," Ms. Cormier-Lassonde said.
"Canada remains willing to listen to and speak with persons who may have information that will assist in the safe release of the hostages," she added.
Ms. Lindhout's parents could not be reached for comment. Former MP Bob Mills, a friend of the family who had been speaking on their behalf, has since been advised not to talk to the media so as to "not compromise" the case. Friends and family have joined groups on the social-networking site Facebook urging Ottawa to pick up the pace.
Mr. Vincent advised families to be patient.
"I think this is a sign they are just ready for a settlement," he said.

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