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Saturday, January 17, 2009

The future of Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout remains unclear, even though a Somali journalist kidnapped along with her 177 days ago has been released.

Abdifatah Mohammed Elmi was freed by his captors late Thursday night. Lindhout's location is a mystery.

Elmi and the driver were taken at gunpoint along with the 27-year-old Lindhout and Australian photojournalist Nigel Brennan, 35, in August.

An international journalists' organization warns that the release of some hostages does not mean the others will be set free any time soon.

"We would like to be very, very cautious about this," said Ambroise Pierre with the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders. "It would be too quick to think that because they were released that it's good news for the two foreign journalists. Their situations are obviously very different."

Elmi, speaking with Canwest News Service from the home he shares with his wife and daughter, said he had no hope of ever seeing his family again.

"No, no hope," Elmi said Friday in a telephone interview. "They came to me and said to me, 'Don't talk (to anyone) about anything. You have to go.' I am very happy. Very, very happy. Now I am free."

He said he was kept blindfolded in a room alone, with none of his kidnappers speaking to him until the end of his captivity.

The group were on their way from Mogadishu to visit refugee camps in Afgoye, 25 kilometres west of the capital city.

Elmi said he had no information about the well-being or whereabouts of Lindhout, of Sylvan Lake, Alta., or Brennan because they were immediately separated after they were captured. He said he was not held hostage in the same location as the other two.

"When we were captured, we all shut our eyes, then we go to a place that I don't know where I was, why we go there," Elmi said. "I haven't seen the other colleagues that were with me."

He said he rarely heard the kidnappers talk about the two foreigners.

"I asked them: 'Where are my colleagues?' They couldn't say," he said. "Sometimes I hear that they are still alive, but I don't know the reality."

Pierre said that Elmi and a driver were released due to the work of a local tribal leader. In the case of Lindhout and Brennan, the demands would have been different and most likely difficult to meet.

"The negotiators are not the same ones. What they ask for from the negotiators is very different," said Pierre. "What the good news today is that we know that Elmi was well-treated where he was kept. We can hope, it's an argument for hope, that Lindhout and Brennan are also treated in good health."

Elmi said he cannot identify his captors and added that although he was not assaulted during the ordeal, the men were heavily armed.

In September, a tribal chief negotiating the release of the journalists said the kidnap gang wanted a ransom of $2.5 million for the westerners, and said they would kill Lindhout after 15 days if the ransom wasn't paid.

The deadline passed without any further communication.

Pierre said he hopes this new development will assist in further negotiations between the kidnappers and the Canadian and Australian governments.

"The bad news is that Amanda Lindhout and Nigel Brennan are still being kept as hostages. The bad news is that we don't have much news about their situation," he said. "We will continue to communicate on this affair and try to get solid information. This is between the Somalia kidnappers and the foreign governments and we hope the best efforts will be made to find a good outcome to this situation."

A Foreign Affairs spokesman said Ottawa had little to say about Elmi's release.

"We are pleased that those seized with Ms. Lindhout and Mr. Brennan are reported to have been released. We continue to pursue all appropriate channels to seek further information about Ms. Lindhout's welfare, and to assist the family in securing her safe release as well as that of Mr. Brennan," said Daniel Barbarie.

"We will not comment or release any information which may compromise these efforts and jeopardize the safety of a Canadian or other citizen."

Meanwhile, Briton Colin Freeman, a correspondent for the Sunday Telegraph, and Spanish freelance photographer Jose Cendon were also freed in Somalia on Thursday.

Freeman and Cendon were seized in November as they left a hotel. An official in the northern semi-autonomous province of Puntland said the two were released through the efforts of local elders.

Journalists and humanitarian workers are frequently abducted in Somalia, a country torn by unrest since 1991. Most kidnappings include ransom demands.


  1. I went to middle school with Amanda in grade 7 - My prayers are with her and her family...

    Faye Polson

  2. Well, this is certainly news of an upbeat nature. Good news indeed. Now let's hope that with these most recent events occurring in this case (and that of other Somalian abductions, etc.), will be a prelude to Nigel and Amanda's imminent release.

    Quite possibly, the abductor's are beginning to realize that they will not have their demands met and that their behaviour / methods are only serving to keep their people and their country on the constant cusp of returning to the Stone Age (or the pre-Industrial Revolution for that matter). Banna Republics such as Somalia will always fail in self-governance when they lack cognizance of morality and human dignity among their peoples and those that rule them. Corruption flows from the top down and is the standard mode of getting things "accomplished" in their domain. Only when they begin to own up to their failures, will they begin to self-heal and progress into the 21st Century.

    To the Lindhout family ... hang in there. Stay strong and keep your faith. Perseverance is the key here as you well know. Amanda has been one of the individuals attempting to affect a positive change for the people of Somalia. It is unfortunate that her abductor's have failed to understand that she was attempting to be a conduit for revealing to the world at large, the situation "on the ground" with regard to conditions in the Somalian refugee camps. Let's hope that these guys have some type of conscience and will realize the positive purpose for both Amanda and Nigel's visit to the camps.

    Peace and Prayers,

    Brent Watts
    Florida, U.S.A.

  3. It has been 147 days since Amanda was kidnapped on August 23, 2008.

  4. **********************************************************************************
    SOME VERY GOOD NEWS REGARDING AMANDA AND NIGEL'S SITUATION IN SOMALIA AS OF FRIDAY, JANUARY 23RD, 2009 (the 5th month (to the day) of their abduction and subsequent captivity in Somalia by armed insurgents on August 23rd, 2008).

    This info was kindly brought to the attention of both the Blogspot and Facebook sites devoted to the welfare of Amanda Lindhout and Nigel Brennan, by the Facebook member "Paul MacPherson" on 01/23/2009. Much thanks to him for making this information available to all of the devotees to this site and that of the Facebook site as well.

    Let's hope that this is a strong indication that the abductor's will release Amanda and Nigel in the very near future. Our prayers go out to Amanda and Nigel and both the Lindhout and Brennan families and their friends and supporters throughout this entire ordeal. Keep your hopes up and continue to pray for their immediate release.

    Take care,

    Brent Watts
    Florida, U.S.A.

    This article was taken from the website (01/23/2009) at the following URL:

    "Ransom for Alta. journalist lowered: Somali group"

    Jorge Barrera, Canwest News Service
    Published: Friday, January 23, 2009

    Somali kidnappers holding Alberta journalist Amanda Lindhout and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan have reportedly dropped their ransom demand to $100,000 US, the head of a Somalia press freedom organization said Friday.

    Dad Abdi Daud, executive director of Mogadishu-based Somali Journalists Rights Agency, said the new ransom demand, which is a drop from the original $2.5 million, signalled a positive development in the plight of Lindhout, 27, and Brennan, 35, who were kidnapped at gunpoint outside the Somali capital of Mogadishu last August.

    "Now they want $100,000," said Daud, in a telephone interview Friday with Canwest News Service. "You can see the difference."

    A Foreign Affairs spokesman in Ottawa said that he is not going to comment on this new development.

    "We continue to pursue all appropriate channels to seek further information about Ms. Lindhout's welfare, and to assist the family in securing her safe release as well as that of Mr. Brennan," said Daniel Barbarie in an e-mail.

    "We will not comment or release any information which may compromise these efforts and jeopardize the safety of a Canadian or other citizen."

    Daud said the two Westerners were being treated relatively well, but were suffering "body itching" as a result of their captivity.

    He said the father of a Somali journalist who was kidnapped along with Lindhout and Brennan, but released last week, planned to make contact with the kidnappers to pass on medicine for the two Westerners.

    Daud believes the kidnapping may have been orchestrated with the help of employees at the Mogadishu hotel where Lindhout and Brennan were staying.

    The two were kidnapped Aug. 23, along with their Somali fixer and driver, while on their way from Mogadishu to visit refugee camps in Afgoye, about 25 kilometres west of the war-torn Somali capital.

    In September, a tribal chief involved in negotiations said the kidnappers wanted $2.5 million US in ransom.

    The release of Abdifatah Mohammed Elmi last week was a dramatic development in a kidnapping case that had slowly receded into the background as the conflict in Somalia worsened. Lindhout's case was also overshadowed in Canada by the release of CBC reporter Melissa Fung, who had been kidnapped in Afghanistan.

    Ambroise Pierre, with the Africa Desk at Reporters Without Borders, said Thursday that Canadian and Australian authorities had taken the lead in negotiations for Lindhout and Brennan's release.

    Pierre said Elmi was released after his "tribal group" threatened to attack the kidnappers.

    "The story with the foreign journalists is different and the negotiations for their release is something different," said Pierre.

    "Their situation is very worrying. They have been held for more than 180 days."

    Lindhout's family in Sylvan Lake, Alta., could not be reached Friday for comment.

    © Canwest News Service 2009