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With no big network behind them, freelance journalists complete one year in Somalia captivity

Handout photo of Amanda Lindhout, a Canadian freelance journalist, who is being held for ransom in Somalia. In the inset is Brisbane photographer Nigel Brennan.

Two foreign freelance journalists have complete a year in captivity in Somalia. Canadian reporter Amanda Lindhout and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan were taken hostage by an armed group as they were returning to Mogadishu from Afgoye refugee camp, 20 km west of the Somali capital, on August 23, 2008.

At the time of their abduction, Lindhout and Brennan were being accompanied by Abdifatah Mohammed Elmi, a Somali freelance journalist who was their fixer and interpreter, and two Somali drivers, Mahad Isse and Marwali.
Elmi and the two drivers were released on the night of January, 15after being held for 177 days. Elmi said he was separated from Lindhout and Brennan immediately after their capture.

A woman claiming to be Lindhout called CTV headquarters in Toronto on June 10 and appealed to the Canadian government to do everything possible to obtain her release. In tears, she said she was being held in appalling conditions.

“I’m being kept in a dark, windowless room in chains without any clean drinking water and very little food or no food,” the caller said. “I’ve been very sick for months without any medicine.” A similar call was made to OMNI Television, another Canadian TV station, at the end of July.

The abductors have been demanding a ransom, the size of which has changed over the months. Rumours have circulated about the hostages but Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) has been unable to confirm any of them. According to one rumour, Lindhout was pregnant and several Somali sources have said in the past two months that she gave birth to a boy.

“We are very worried about these two hostages, given the length of their ordeal and the extreme dangers prevailing in Somalia,” RSF said. “We reiterate our support for their families and we hope they will be released without delay.”

Here is the statement of both families :
"Together, the two families continue to work tirelessly to secure Nigel’s and Amanda’s safe release. With little outside support, the families, who have been united as one throughout this horrendous ordeal, continue to do everything and anything to gain the earliest possible release for their loved ones Amanda and Nigel.

"Our thoughts and all our love are with Amanda and Nigel, today, just as they have been for the past 365 days, and just as they will be until they are safely home with us. In issuing this brief joint statement the families hope that the media will respect their wishes to be left alone during this particularly emotional time.”

It wasn't immediately clear if the statement's reference to "little outside support" was criticism aimed at the Canadian and Australian governments, a Canadian Press report said.

Rodney Moore, a spokesman for Foreign Affairs in Canada, said in an interview Saturday that the federal government continues to pursue all "appropriate channels" to seek further information about the welfare of both journalists. "We will not comment or release any information which may compromise these efforts and jeopardize the safety of a Canadian or other citizen," he told the agency.

"She's basically on her own, from what we can tell. She doesn't have a big (broadcasting) network behind her or a big newspaper chain behind her, or even a whole bunch of colleagues on the ground in Somalia who know her and can gather some intelligence and do what they can," Mary Agnes Welch, president of the Canadian Association of Journalists, told the National Post newspaper.

Date posted: August 24, 2009 Last modified: May 12, 2018 Total views: 71