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Thursday, June 11, 2009

'My life is worth more than any money' said Amanda

Tearful and her voice breaking, a woman claiming to be Canadian freelance journalist Amanda Lindhout said she'll die in captivity if the Canadian government doesn't pay the ransom her captors are demanding in exchange for her freedom.

"I'm in a desperate situation," she said. "I'm being kept in a dark, windowless room in chains without any clean drinking water and little or no food. I've been very sick for months without any medicine."

The woman phoned CTV news in Toronto late yesterday afternoon and read a statement in which she pleaded for Canada to pay for her release.

"The Canadian government must have some duty to help its citizens in such a crisis and my fellow citizens can assist me by putting pressure on my government," she said. "I love my country and I want to live to see it again. Without food or medicine I will die here."

She said the only way to secure her freedom was to pay the gunmen holding her hostage. She begged her family and "fellow journalists in Canada" to do all they could to bring attention to her situation and find a way to ransom her.

"[My family] must deal directly with these people as my life depends on it. My life is worth more than any money spent."

Ms. Lindhout is a freelance journalist from Sylvan Lake, Alta. She went to Somalia in August, 2008, on a freelance project for a French television station. She and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan, were abducted on Aug. 23 - just three days after Ms. Lindhout's arrival - while trying to visit a displaced-persons camp outside the capital city of Mogadishu. Several other people were reportedly taken captive at the same time and have since been released.

Ms. Lindhout has been held captive in an undisclosed location since then, but has made calls to news agencies begging for assistance.

Ms. Lindhout contacted the Agence France-Presse news agency in late May, saying that she would die a prisoner if her captors didn't receive $1-million. Agence France-Presse reported the exchange sounded like a prepared statement, and that when an AFP reporter asked her for details on her health, she replied, "I cannot answer any question that you have. What I just said, that's all I can say."

In the same interview, Mr. Brennan said he had been shackled for four months and was running a high fever.

Last week the Toronto Star reported a man phoned the paper from Mogadishu offering a similar interview three days after the AFP exchange, but the Star turned down the offer for fear of compromising Ms. Lindhout's chances of freedom.

Ms. Lindhout's friends, family and supporters have used websites, Facebook pages and YouTube videos to drum up support for the woman people on the sites describe as a "brave girl" who was worried for her safety.