Longest-held Australian hostage recounts his ordeal

Wed Jun 29, 2011 5:13am EDT
 
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By Pauline Askin

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Daily beatings and prayers five times a day for over a year were all part of Australian photojournalist Nigel Brennan's harrowing ordeal at the hands of a Somalian criminal gang after a 2008 kidnapping.

But what ultimately saved Brennan, the longest-held Australian hostage outside of a war situation, were the efforts of his family, who refused to give up on him and took the lead in negotiations to secure his release.

"If it wasn't for my family I would still be in captivity. They decided to move away from the government and take matters into their own hands," said Brennan at the launch of "The Price of Life," a book about his kidnapping and ransom, this week.

Somalia has been mired in violence and awash with weapons since the overthrow of a dictator in 1991. The weak western-backed government controls only parts of Mogadishu, the capital.

Just days after arriving, Brennan and Canadian documentary maker Amanda Lindhout were kidnapped and held for $3.16 million -- money their families had to come up with, since neither the Australian nor Canadian government will ransom their citizens.

Knowing their relatives could not pay that money, the two converted to Islam on the suggestion of one captor that their lives might be spared if they did so -- resulting in days filled with religious instruction, regular prayers, and reading an English version of the Qur'an.

Escape attempts came to nothing, with one try failing when Lindhout couldn't manage to slip through the bars of a window.

The two the next day managed to slip into a nearby mosque.   Continued...

 
<p>Former hostage Nigel Brennan, an Australian freelance photojournalist, speaks at a news conference in Sydney December 9, 2009. REUTERS/Daniel Munoz</p>