Alberta journalist kidnapped in Somalia may be in Mogadishu: friend

An Alberta freelance journalist reportedly kidnapped in Somalia on the weekend may be in the hands of gunmen in Mogadishu, a friend said Monday.

Somali government begins its own search to locate missing freelance writer

Amanda Lindhout, a freelance journalist and native of Red Deer, Alta., is shown in this undated photo. Lindhout and an Australian journalist were kidnapped in Somalia on Saturday. ((Red Deer Advocate/Canadian Press))
An Alberta freelance journalist reportedly kidnapped in Somalia on the weekend may be in the hands of gunmen in Mogadishu, a friend said Monday.

Chris Gelken, a friend of journalist Amanda Lindhout, told CBC News from Beijing that the National Union of Somali Journalists is "fairly convinced" that she is being held captive in a northwest part of the Somali capital.

He said the union has no idea which group is behind the kidnapping and what its motive might be but it said it thinks it may have been a "preplanned" abduction.

Lindhout, 27, a native of Red Deer, Alta., was reportedly abducted Saturday en route to a refugee camp outside of Mogadishu.

It's believed Lindhout was kidnapped along with Nigel Brennan, 37, a freelance photojournalist from Brisbane, Australia.

"Amanda obviously knows that there's obviously an inherent risk in reporting from conflict zones. She does have a lot of experience but she isn't reckless. She's a very brave journalist but she's also very professional," he said.

"I'm sure that she very carefully weighed the risks involved before going."

In this undated photo released Sunday by the Brennan family, Australian freelance photographer Nigel Brennan is seen in Brisbane, Australia. ((Brennan family/Associated Press))
Lindhout was reportedly in Somalia doing a story on war refugees. Gelken received a Facebook message from her on Friday, the last day that her friends say they believe anybody had any contact with her.

The Somali government says a search has begun for the two journalists.

Abdi Haji Gobdon, a government spokesman, said efforts were underway to locate the pair. He did not confirm their identities.

"Once we get information where they are, we will take measures, be it force or negotiations. We will try to ensure the safety and release of the journalists," Gobdon told the Associated Press.

It's believed a Somali driver and two guards escorting the pair were also abducted.

According to Somalis who had contact with the two journalists, a Somali translator and two bodyguards set off with the pair on Saturday morning for a location near Elasha, 18 kilometres south of the capital. It's believed the group was in a vehicle that was stopped by gunmen as it travelled to the camp.

The journalists wanted to see people who has been forced out of Mogadishu because of violence and now living outside the city.

Lindhout's family told CBC News on the weekend they have been in regular contact with Foreign Affairs.

Lindhout writes for the Red Deer Advocate newspaper, reporting from war zones in Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Kelly Barker, a friend who lives in Calgary, said Lindhout was thrilled to be travelling through east Africa with her Australian friend Brennan, and she had received a text message from Lindhout in Mogadishu on Friday.

"She seemed to be doing great."

Barker said Lindhout was a determined journalist. "She always believed that you can't tell an honest story from the rooftop of a hotel," she said. "She wanted to get right into the middle of everything and she knew the risks of it."

Foreign Affairs said on the weekend that Canadian consular officials are in contact with Somali authorities.

Kidnappings are common in Somalia, where Islamist insurgents have been fighting the interim government and its Ethiopian military allies since the start of last year.

With files from the Associated Press