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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Ransom for Alta. journalist lowered: Somali group

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.

1 comment:


    Prayers for Amanda and Nigel, their family + loved ones + friends, supporters, and everyone here on FB who are closely watching this case. May they return home swiftly and safely.

    "Hang in there" to the Lindhout's and Brennan's. Stay strong ... many, many, many people are pulling for Amanda and Nigel and yourselves.


    Brent (aka August 30th)

    As of Wednesday, February 4th, 2009 @ 3:00 PM E.S.T. via CNN:

    "Gunmen assassinate prominent Somali journalist"

    From Mohammed Amiin Adow
    For CNN

    (CNN) -- A prominent Somali journalist was shot and killed by suspected Islamist gunmen in broad daylight on Wednesday, as one of his colleagues watched in horror.

    The journalist who witnessed the assassination of Said Tahlil Ahmed in Mogadishu said the two gunmen also intended to kill others.

    "First, they shot him in the back and then one of the armed men came over him and fired more shots into his head to finish him off," he said. "One of the gunmen was shouting, 'Kill the other one,' which they meant another one of us."

    The journalist did not want his name released for security reasons.

    Tahlil, the director of independent HornAfrik Radio and host of a popular radio talk show, was on his way to a meeting that had been called by the Islamist militia Al-Shabaab, when gunmen from the group attacked him, his colleague said.

    The National Union of Somali Journalists issued a statement strongly condemning Tahlil's assassination, which it blamed on Al-Shabaab -- a radical Islamist militia that controls parts of Mogadishu and four regions in southern Somalia.

    "This is an outrageous and appalling assassination," said NUSOJ Secretary-General Omar Faruk Osman, in a prepared statement. "Said Tahlil Ahmed was assassinated because of his strong and professional commitment for independent journalism."

    The surviving journalist -- who suffered injuries to his legs after he fell down while fleeing the attack -- said Al-Shabaab had called for a meeting with Mogadishu radio station directors, but the group would not say what the meeting was about, according to the witness and NUSOJ.

    "This is absolutely shocking and the journalists in Mogadishu are in a state of fear," the journalist said. "We are extremely worried about our safety."

    Local radio and television stations in the Somali capital had been broadcasting live coverage of last week's Somali presidential election held in Djibouti, which many Islamist groups -- including Al-Shabaab -- have rejected.

    Al-Shabaab has imposed harsh Islamic law, or sharia, in the areas of Somalia that it controls. It seized the city of Baidoa, where the transitional government is based, preventing the newly elected government from returning to Somalia.

    Last year, the United States put Al-Shabaab on its list of terrorist organizations because of its ties to al Qaeda.

    Tahlil is the second journalist to be murdered in Somalia this year. Militias shot and killed Hassan Mayow Hassan, a reporter for Shabelle Radio, on January 1 in the agricultural town of Afgoye.

    The Committee to Protect Journalists lists Somalia as the seventh most deadly nation in the world for journalists. Members of the news media work under duress there amid a war between a weak transitional government and insurgents, the committee said, and 10 Somali journalists have been killed in the last two years.

    Tahlil's predecessor, HornAfrik chairman Ali Iman Sharke, was killed by a roadside bomb in Mogadishu in 2007, after he had returned from the funeral of another radio director who was killed on the same day by unknown gunmen in Mogadishu.

    Shabelle radio's acting director, Bashir Nor Gedi, was also killed in 2007 near his home in Mogadishu by unknown gunmen.

    (End of CNN's article)