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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ransom deadline for kidnapped Canadian journalist may be good news

OTTAWA - Canadian authorities in Somalia are doing as much as they can for a young Canadian journalist kidnapped at gunpoint nearly two months ago in the war-torn African country, according to a spokesman at an international group of journalists.
"There is an open channel of communication now," said Leonard Vincent, head of the Africa desk of Reporters Without Borders. "I know there are very intense efforts made by the Canadians, so messages (from the kidnappers) can go through."
Vincent said the efforts are obviously working, after a deadline on a ransom demand was announced earlier this week by a group claiming to be holding Sylvan Lake, Alta., journalist Amanda Lindhout, Australian photojournalist Nigel Brennan, and Somali photojournalist Abdifatah Mohammed Elmi.

The three were abducted at gunpoint on Aug. 23 while on a road between Afgoye and the Somali capital of Mogadishu.
In September, the kidnappers demanded a ransom of $2.5 million for the foreigners' release. On Monday, the group contacted Lindhout's last employer, Press TV, an English-language Iranian television station, saying if the ransom was not paid within 15 days, Lindhout and Brennan would die.
Vincent said this new deadline should be seen as a positive step toward their release.
"These guys are a little gang. The bills are piling up. It costs a lot of money to keep Western hostages," he said from Paris. "The kidnappers are getting nervous or impatient in finding a settlement. We believe, and always have believed, that the two foreigners are their shield. It's just a way of drawing attention and spreading fear (for them)."
Although no group has taken responsibility for the kidnapping, various news organizations working on the case say this ransom demand shows the kidnappers are fuelled by finances, not political gain.
"If they were to get rid of them, they will be exposed to attacks from the other side - from Islamists, Americans, Canadians," Vincent said. "They're protected by the fact that they have hostages. It's always been about the money; the money is a way for them to protect themselves, to get some food, a car, and some weapons and get away after this is done."
A spokesman for Foreign Affairs said Wednesday the agency was aware of the recent deadline made by the kidnappers, but could not provide any details in fear of jeopardizing the government's efforts.
Vincent said a country such as Somalia, which has lacked an effective government since 1991, is extremely difficult for government agencies to negotiate with in such situations.
"In these types of cases, you don't just pick up the phone; there has be middlemen, exchanges of messages through several intermediaries. The difficulty now is to maintain the communication," he said.
In September, the Arab-language, all-news satellite network, Al-Jazeera, broadcasted video footage of Lindhout and Brennan. The video showed the two appealing for governments to work together toward their release, but there was no sound.
Lindhout, 27, and Brennan, 37, had intended on visiting refugee camps in the war-torn country when they were kidnapped. She was a freelance TV and print journalist who had worked in Baghdad before going to Africa.
The Canadian government has advised against all travel in Somalia.
Islamists are engaged in guerrilla warfare and deadly clashes with Somali government forces, Ethiopian troops and African Union peacekeepers.

1 comment:

  1. dear sir,madam

    My name is Willem Sools, maybe you have noticed in the media I was like Amanda kidnapped togheter with my Japanes colleague Keiko Akahane and released on the 7th of January 2009. I'm thinking a lot of the other hostages who are still held in captivity. If there is anything I can do in my capability to help, please feel free to ask me. My thoughts are with Amanda and her colleague and there love-one's. All the best

    Willem Sools