Canadian police have arrested a Somali man for his role in the kidnapping of two foreign journalists who were held in Somalia for more than 15 months before being freed nearly seven years ago.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Assistant Commissioner James Malizia announced the arrest Friday of Ali Omar Ader. Canadian freelancer Amanda Lindhout and Australian photojournalist Nigel Brennan were kidnapped by gunmen on Aug. 23, 2008. They were released in November 2009 after a reported $700,000 ransom was paid, some of it by Australian entrepreneur Dick Smith.
Malizia said the man, arrested Thursday in Ottawa, was one of the main negotiators within the group that carried out the kidnapping. Ader was expected to make a court appearance in Ottawa on Friday.
Malizia suggested the man was lured to Canada before being arrested. He declined to reveal how he arrived in Canada but said the suspect was first targeted in Somalia.
He said the arrest was the result of an undercover operation in Somalia that posed significant challenges and included surveillance and wire taps.
“It was carried out in an extremely high risk environment in a country plagued with political instability,” Malizia said.
He said the details will come out in court and declined further comment. He also declined to say whether the Somalia government was aware of the investigation.
The RCMP acknowledged the help of the Canada Border Services Agency, Foreign Affairs and the Australian Federal Police throughout the process.
The two journalists were kept apart from each other, beaten and tortured during their ordeal. Lindhout also reported being raped.
“This operation was mounted following the kidnapping and sexual abuse of Amanda Lindhout, a young, very courageous Canadian,” Canadian Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said. “Now she can say that justice is being done in Canada.”
Journalists and humanitarian workers are frequently abducted for ransom in Somalia, one of the world’s poorest countries, mired in anarchy since 1991 when warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.