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Somalia24 August 2008

Three journalists, two of them foreigners, and their driver kidnapped by gunmen for unclear reasons

Reporters Without Borders is worried about the abduction of Canadian freelance journalist Amanda Lindhout, Australian freelance photographer Nigel Brennan and Somali photographer Abdifatah Mohammed Elmi. Gunmen kidnapped them and their driver Mahad on 23 August near Mogadishu for reasons that are not yet clear.

“Prudence is required in Somalia, where the situation is complex and journalists and humanitarian aid workers are often abducted by militias acting with very diverse motives,” Reporters Without Borders said. “But we hope that the broadest possible diplomatic effort and the help of Mogadishu clan chiefs will result in the safe release of the three journalists and their driver very soon.”

Lindhout and Brennan, who arrived in Somalia on 20 August, set off from their Mogadishu hotel with Elmi, who was acting as their interpreter, and with their driver on the morning of 23 August to visit a refugee camp at Afgoye, about 20 km west of the capital.

The Reporters Without Borders partner organisation in Somalia, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), said it had been told that the journalists were ambushed on their way back, at a point 13 km outside the city. The alarm was sounded by hotel staff when they noticed that the journalists had not returned.

It is not yet known if they were kidnapped for ransom or for political reasons. No group has so far claimed responsibility for the abduction or issued a ransom demand. NUSOJ said it had received information indicating that the abduction may have been premeditated and that an as yet unidentified militia could be holding them in Suqa Holaha, a district on the northeastern outskirts of Mogadishu.

A few hours before the kidnapping, Ahmed Jeylani of Radio Voice of Holy Kuran was arrested on the night of 22 August in Mogadishu by members of the federal transition government’s police force, who held him at a police station without any charges and refused to explain their action after releasing him.



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