Shots fired during Lindhout release

Shots were fired at the vehicle carrying Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout during her release this week in Somalia, CBC News has learned.
Kidnapped journalists Amanda Lindhout and Australian Nigel Brennan were released Wednesday after 15 months of captivity in Somalia. ((Government of Somalia/Reuters))

Shots were fired at the vehicle carrying kidnapped Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout during her release this week in Somalia, CBC News has learned.

It was "less than a dozen shots — including warning shots — approaching a checkpoint," a source close to the negotiations told CBC News. "It was unclear as it was night, but it was directed at their direction."

CBC News has also learned that although an agreement had been reached four weeks ago, the release of Lindhout and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan, who were being held by a criminal gang, hit a snag.

"Within the gang, there were members causing obstructions to a smooth and safe exchange," the source said. "There was difficulty within the gang."

Lindhout arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, on Thursday, a day after being released in Somalia after 15 months of captivity.

Sources with knowledge of the negotiations confirmed to CBC News on Thursday that the total ransom paid for the release of Lindhout and Brennan was $600,000 US.

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Lindhout sits with a child in Mogadishu, Somalia, before her kidnapping. (Canadian Press) ((Canadian Press))

The source said the deal was that money would not be exchanged until the two were in the possession of AKE, an international security service company hired to help secure their release.

The security team was to use a small Cessna that sat on the Kenyan border in Wajir. The morning the exchange was to take place, they flew into Mogadishu, where they waited for hours, a source said.

As part of the exchange agreement, the journalists were picked up by a couple of Somalian MPs, who were going to hand them over to the security service in exchange for the money.

But by the time the MPs had picked up the journalists, it was already dark. As they drove, they came to a checkpoint where shots were fired at their unidentified vehicle, the source said. It's unclear who fired the shots.

They veered off and went to a hotel for the night, but the place was not considered safe.

"Months ago a couple of French nationals were kidnapped there," the source said. "It was not a safe place."

Concerns were raised when the journalists did media interviews from the hotel, revealing their location.

The next morning, they were taken to the Mogadishu International Airport by a convoy that included armoured personnel carriers and vehicles with mounted machine guns, the source said. From there, they were flown to Nairobi, where they remained Friday.

Lindhout, a freelance television and print reporter from Sylvan Lake, Alta., arrived in Mogadishu to work for French TV channel France 24. on Aug. 20, 2008.

She and Brennan had been reporting on refugees escaping factional fighting in the Mogadishu area when they were ambushed by roadside kidnappers on Aug. 23, 2008.