Niger slams Fowler over leak claims
Niger's ambassador to Canada called it "grotesque" and "ludicrous" for a retired Canadian diplomat who was held hostage in the African country to suggest somebody in her government may have leaked his travel plans to al-Qaeda.
The diplomat, Robert Fowler, suspects a high-level leak served to guide his al-Qaeda kidnappers right to him, leading to his capture and four punishing months in captivity.
Fowler, a United Nations special envoy, and his aide, Canadian Louis Guay, were dispatched to Niger in an attempt to broker a peace deal in the northern part of the country, where the Tuaregs, a minority of ethnic nomads, are fighting the government.
Fowler said the Niger government, as well as the United Nations offices in Africa and New York, knew about his route on Dec. 14, 2008, the day he and Guay were taken hostage by a band of militants armed with AK-47s.
On Friday in Ottawa, Niger's ambassador to Canada, Nana Aïcha Foumakoye, said Fowler should offer an apology "because he went too far."
Foumakoye said Fowler did not give her government his agenda for the day he was abducted and she suggested he was hiding the true nature of his work.
"What did he have to hide?" said the ambassador. "Why didn't he let us know? I don't understand why he didn't."
A UN official also denied knowledge of Fowler's movements that day.
"At the very moment that he was abducted we did not know about his travel over those previous several hours," said Farhan Haq, a spokesman for the UN secretary-general.
In his broadcast interview, Fowler said he has an email from the UN office confirming it had passed on his travel plans "to all the appropriate people."
On Friday, Fowler responded in writing to the ambassador's comments.
"I stand by what I said. It could have been anyone who had my itinerary," he wrote.