Monday, February 22, 2010

No grudge against Somalis: Lindhout

No grudge against Somalis: Lindhout

 Hero's Welcome For Kidnap Victim

 By Sherri Zickefoose, Calgary Herald


Despite being kidnapped and traumatized by lawless gangsters in Somalia, freed freelance journalist Amanda Lindhout says she harbours no grudge against the wartorn country.


"It's very important for me to say I do not see the men who kidnapped me as a reflection of Somali society as a whole," Lindhout told a local community group honouring her in Calgary Sunday.


Reading from a prepared statement, Lindhout shared a glimpse of her ordeal.


It was the first time Lindhout has spoken before an audience about her ordeal. Last December, she issued a photo of herself posing next to a Christmas tree and a statement thanking a British security firm, their families and those who donated money for the pair's release.


Amanda Lindhout
"Despite my own suffering in Somalia and without condoning what was done to me, I feel that those inflicting the violence, while certainly not innocent, are deeply wounded and war-traumatized individuals," she said. "My thoughts and prayers remain with those who continue to suffer in Somalia."


Lindhout was honoured Sunday night by members of Alberta's Somali-Canadian community. The group offered Lindhout a standing ovation at the conclusion of her speech. "She's a hero. She took the initiative to do what most people like you or I fear," said Hussein Warsame.


"She's a role model for what we need to see more of in times like this."


Flanked by her parents, girlfriends, and a publicist, Lindhout was moved to tears during a slide show about war-ravaged Somalia.


Aside from the banquet held in her honour, the local Somali community also gave her a gift of a framed picture of herself and a necklace engraved with the word hero.


Following her speech, she visited with well-wishers and posed for photos with them. The media was not allowed to ask her questions.


Lindhout, a freelance journalist, was taken captive at gunpoint near the Somalian capital of Mogadishu on Aug. 23, 2008 along with Australian photographer Nigel Brennan. A Somali translator and their driver were also taken hostage.


Kidnappers first demanded $2.5 million US ransom in exchange for her release.


The two said they were beaten and made to ask their families for money until a ransom, reported to be $500,000 to $1 million, was paid last November.


After agonizing months of negotiations, the pair were freed Nov. 25, 2009. "My wish for Somalia is to experience freedom . . . I hold a vision of peace for Somalia," Lindhout said.


Source: The Calgary Herald

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