Gwendolyn Richards
Canwest News Service

Monday, September 08, 2008

CALGARY – Kidnappers holding an Alberta journalist in Somalia have demanded a $2.5-million US ransom in exchange for her release, a local chief in contact with the abductors said Sunday.

Dahir Farah has been participating in negotiations to free Amanda Lindhout – a 27-year-old journalist from Sylvan Lake, Atla. working out of Baghdad – Australian photojournalist Nigel Brennan and their Somali fixer, who were all abducted on August 23. The three were on the road between the capital Mogadishu and Afgoye, when they were kidnapped at gunpoint.

"The kidnappers demanded $2.5 million (US) and we are trying to secure their release," Farah said.

News of the ransom demand was welcomed back in Calgary by Lindhout’s friend Jeremy Kroeker, who said he is encouraged by the development.

"It is good news," he said Sunday. "It means they see her as a commodity. They’re not trying to make a political statement."

The fact the abductors want money also means they will take good care of Lindhout and not do anything rash, he added.

"The fact that there’s dialogue is also very encouraging. That means someone out there knows who has her," said Kroeker.

Kroeker met Lindhout last winter in Damascus while he was on a motorcycle tour. He said Lindhout was a "strong and strong-willed" woman.

Kroeker has been trying to stay on top of developments as they unfold and has read about similar cases. While optimistic, he said he is prepared for a lengthy delay in Lindhout’s release.

"Some other negotiations in Somalia took weeks or months," he said.

Meanwhile, another person claiming to be an intermediary for the kidnappers, contacted Agence France-Presse and spoke of the same ransom demand.

He also allowed two people claiming to be the foreign journalists to speak briefly.

"I’m Amanda, the Canadian journalist. Our health situation is very well for the time being," Lindhout purportedly said.

A man claiming to be Brennan said: "We are very well now mentally and physically."

They were speaking from an undisclosed location.

"We need a ransom of $2.5 million to free the hostages," said the intermediary, Adan Nur Siad, who added that he had been in touch with representatives of the Australian police in Nairobi.

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

With files from Agence France-Presse

© Calgary Herald 2008

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