Talks to free Canadian journalist kidnapped in Somalia stalled.

Amanda Lindhout, Canadian

Halkaan ka akhri

CALGARY  May 20, 2009 — Negotiations between the Canadian government and the kidnappers holding Canadian freelance journalist Amanda Lindhout have ground to a halt, according to an international group representing journalists.

Ambroise Pierre, the Africa desk chief for Reporters Without Borders, said he was informed last week that talks between the two sides, which have been negotiating Lindhout’s release since she was taken in Somalia in August 2008, have apparently ended.

Lindhout was kidnapped at gunpoint along with Australian photographer Nigel Brennan and a Somali guide, who has since been released.

“The kidnappers have stopped talking,” said Pierre. “I can confirm that.”

Pierre said it’s believed to be the first time talks between the kidnappers and the Canadian and Australian governments have stopped. He said he can only guess why the captors have decided to stop talking.

“I assume that’s to put pressure on the Canadian government,” he said. “I know they are still alive and in good condition.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs is saying little about the case.

“We are pursuing all appropriate channels to seek further information about Ms. Lindhout’s welfare, and to assist the family in securing her safe release as well as that of Mr. Brennan,” said department spokesman Daniel Barbarie.

“We will not comment or release any information which may compromise these efforts and jeopardize the safety of a Canadian or other citizen.”

Lindhout’s family in Sylvan Lake, Alta., 150 kilometres southwest of Edmonton, could not be reached for comment.

Lindhout, Brennan and Abdifatah Mohammed Elmi were taken on August 23, 2008 while travelling in Somalia. Elmi was released from custody in January 2009.

In January, the kidnappers reportedly lowered their ransom demand from $2.5 million U.S. to $100,000. An organization representing Somali journalists suggested at the time the kidnapping may have been orchestrated with the help of employees at the Mogadishu hotel where Lindhout and Brennan were staying.

A spokesman for a Toronto-based anti-terrorism think-tank said talks to secure the Canadians’ release could resume at any time.

“It’s a common negotiating ploy and it might not be anything really,” said John Thompson, president of the Mackenzie Institute

He said a recent wave of renewed violence in the war-torn country could also be the reason why negotiations have stopped.

smassinon@theherald.canwest.com

Somaliswiss@hotmail.com

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