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Naive waitress reveals hostage horror
Naive waitress reveals hostage horror

A young cocktail waitress so bored with her life that she turned herself into a journalist and flew to Afghanistan, has revealed horrific details of her capture by Muslim warlords.

According to the New York Post, naive Canadian Amanda Lindhout landed in Kabul in May 2007, armed only with a "TV Reporting for Dummies" manual.

The 24-year-old reportedly wanted to "get famous fast" so it wasn't long before she moved on to Iraq where she was held hostage for several hours in Sadr City before paying off her captors.

At an interview in Baghdad, she said other journalists - who she called 'fancypants' - were too scared to leave the Green Zone.

The New York Post reports she then called an ex-boyfriend, 36-year-old Australian photographer Nigel Brennan, and asks him to accompany her to Somalia. Brennan agrees despite having no experience in war zones.

There are few journalists in Somalia, no international bases and Doctors Without Borders is considering pulling out, but Lindhout found this all the more appealing.

"The truth was, I was glad for the lack of competition," she recalls.

A journalist on assignment for National Geographic remembers meeting Lindhout in Mogadishu in August 2008. Robert Draper described her as "recklessly perky" and looking like Kate Middleton.

"She's going to get herself killed," he said in an email to his girlfriend.

On just their third day in Somalia, Lindhout and Brennan were kidnapped, says the New York Post.

The kidnappers had been watching her hotel and initially planned to abduct the National Geographic crew when they spotted easier targets.

According to the New York Post, on August 23, the pair set out for militia-controlled Somalia.

Even the bodyguards they hired wouldn't go there and a fixer told them they needed drive a few kilometres alone.

After a minute a blue Suzuki blocked their path, 12 gunmen shoved themselves into Lindhout's SUV and drove off.

"Don't worry, nothing will happen to you," they are told.

After about 45 minutes, the captives were put into a room furnished by only two mattresses. They announced themselves as jihadis, took what little money Lindhout and Brennan had, then separated them.

Lindhout was molested but released when she told him: "This is wrong, you are not a good Muslim."

The Post says he pushed her down. "You think I need this?" he said. "I have two wives. You are ugly, a bad woman." He ordered her back to the room with Brennan.

The following day, a jihadi named Adan introduced himself as the commander and told them they would be going home soon: "Allah has put it into my heart to ask for a ransom." The price was $3 million for both.

They feared they would die because Brennan's family was large and middle-class and "mortgaged to the eyeballs". Lindhout's parents were divorced, her father was seriously ill and lived on disability and her mother worked for a minimum wage.

Over the next 15-months, they were moved frequently and even started naming their houses: The Electric House, Tacky House, Positive House, Beach House, Dark House.

According to the New York Post they determined their best chance of survival was to convert to Islam. The jihadis agreed and they were given Korans and a tutor.

They were told constantly that they might be sold to Al-Shabaab, the Somali offshoot of al Qaeda.

Brennan curled up in the fetal position as he heard Amanda's screams through the wall, her jihadi captors repeatedly raped her.

During the day they tred to bond with their kidnappers, learning their names and asking their goals. One said he dreamt of being a suicide bomber.

They worked out a system to communicate, stashing tiny notes in the disgusting bathroom, and once they realised that their barred windows were adjacent, they opened their Korans and pretended to pray while quietly talking. Brennan was floored to learn that Amanda's mother had, 11 years ago, joined a cult in Japan and been held hostage herself.

Lindhout developed a fungal infection which spreads from her mouth to her cheek and Brennan suffered dysentery and began bleeding.

In November 2008 packages arrived from their consulates. They contained medicine, prescription eyeglasses and feminine products for Lindhout, fresh underwear and reading material, including Hemingway for Brennan and Nelson Mandela's memoir for Lindhout.

"The downside to receiving a package," Amanda wrote, "was that it made it clear to me that nobody - not our families, nor our governments, nor our captors - thought we'd be free anytime soon."

One hundred nights in, Amanda was ripped from her bed and driven to the desert. She was made to kneel on the ground and a knife was pressed to her throat.

"I sobbed in the dirt, sounding like an animal, like something wounded and incapable of speech.

"They gave me a phone and tell me to talk to my mother. One million dollars in one week, or I die."

The next day they decided to escape through loose bars on the bathroom window.

"Help me, I am Muslim," they pleaded but people turned away and their armed captors arrived soon after.

According to the New York Post the pair were given a public beating, taken to a new house and placed in a metre-wide, rat-infested, dark room.

Lindhout was gang-raped and bleeds for a month. Shewas hogtied, gagged and beaten for days. She found a razor and contemplated suicide.

While in captivity, Lindhout gave birth to a boy named Osama. She refused to comment on the birth but has "admitted atrocities so unspeakable, she'll never share them".

The Post reported that one night Brennan overheard Lindhout on the phone, begging her mother to take the entire $500,000 that Nigel's family had raised and use it to pay just for her. But the bank account for their ransom was held in Australia and her mother was unable to access it.

Brennan was devastated. "I don't think I have ever felt so lonely and cheated in my life . . . I'm furious at myself for trusting her," he said in his account of the ordeal.

On November 25, 2009, the pair were freed in an off-road exchange. They were taken to Somalia's most secure hotel, then the next day driven to the door of their plane, which immediately took off.

Brennan published his memoir, Price of a Life, two years ago and has returned to life as a private citizen.

Lindhout's memoir, A House in the Sky, is out this week. She has since returned to Somalia on behalf of her organisation, the Global Enrichment Foundation, which aims to improve the lives of Kenyan and Somali women.


The West Australian

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