Freed journalist arrives in Nairobi
Canadian freelance journalist Amanda Lindhout arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, on Thursday, a day after being released in Somalia following 15 months of captivity.
Lindhout and Australian photographer Nigel Brennan, who was held hostage with her, from Mogadishu, were flown by a small plane from Mogadishu.
Somalian officials at the airport in Mogadishu kept journalists well away from Lindhout and Brennan, who are both malnourished after months of captivity.
Following a reunion in Nairobi with her mother, who has been in Kenya for two weeks trying to win her daughter's release, Lindhout was expected to go to a hospital for a checkup.
"Amanda's parents are overjoyed and request continued privacy for the family while they focus on Amanda and her transition back to normal life," said Lindhout family spokeswoman Sarah Geddes. "They will return to Canada as soon as Amanda is fit to fly home.
Geddes said that Brennan has also been reunited with his family.
Sources with knowledge of the negotiations have confirmed to CBC News that the total ransom paid for the release of Lindhout and Brennan was $600,000 US.
The families of Lindhout and Brennan raised the ransom, with Lindout's father having to remortgage his house.
Australian entrepreneur Dick Smith said he contributed to the ransom payment for Brennan.
"I did assist with some money," he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. 2 Television on Thursday night. "The media sort of makes out as if I'm some type of hero, that's some sort of clap trap. I'm only a minor player. The family themselves … have done the most incredible job to get the young couple out. Quite amazing."
Lindhout said Wednesday that she was kept in "extremely oppressive" conditions that included torture and beatings.
Lindhout, a freelance television and print reporter from Sylvan Lake, Alta., was usually based in Baghdad. She wrote for the Red Deer Advocate newspaper in Alberta, reporting from war zones in Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan.
On Aug. 20, 2008, Lindhout arrived in Mogadishu to work for French TV channel France 24.
Told refugees' story
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.
Chris Gelken, a friend and former colleague of Lindhout, worked with sources in Somalia to win Lindhout's release.
"How do you describe the feeling — it's just amazing," he said of his reaction to Lindhout and Brennan's release.
In a statement, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canadians were greatly relieved to receive confirmation that Lindhout is free.
"We are ensuring that she receives all available consular support and assistance following her ordeal," he said. "Ms. Lindhout has been through an extremely difficult time. We are thankful that she will soon be reunited with her family and friends."
Harper said the government of Canada was not involved in ransom negotiations.
"We continue to urge Canadians not to travel to Somalia and those that are in Somalia to leave," he said.
Sources also told CBC News that the parents hired a private security company because Ottawa was unable to secure their daughter’s release.
Eva Manasieva, a friend and former colleague of Lindhout, called her a courageous journalist.
"One of those who are not afraid to go to places where others are afraid to go, just for the sake of telling a story, just for the sake of showing that there is something wrong going on in that place," Manasieva said from Austria.
"This is exactly the reason why she went to Africa to do freelance reporting, because she felt that was the right thing to do, to tell a story from a very troubled region."