A Canadian and Australian journalist have been freed after more than a year in captivity, Somali officials said.
Police spokesman Col. Abdullahi Hassan Barise said Canadian Amanda Lindhout and Australian Nigel Brennan are at a Mogadishu hotel with Somali lawmaker Botan Isse Alin. Barise and Alin declined to say if ransom was paid for their release on Wednesday. "We are happy. Our health is OK. We could not believe that we are free," Lindhout told The Associated Press on the phone. "Tonight is a big day for us. We sent our family and friends a message that we are free and will be with them soon after a long time in captivity."
"We are happy the two are released," said Alin. Another police officer and a lawmaker said that a $700,000 ransom was paid for the journalists' release. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media on the issue. It was not possible to independently verify their claim. The journalists were kidnapped in August 2008 along with their Somali driver and two Somali guards while traveling southwest of the capital.
In Australia, Queensland state Premier Anna Bligh said that Brennan "has revealed that he had been pistol whipped and locked in chains for the past 10 months after a failed escape attempt. I'm sure that all Queenslanders would join me in offering our heartfelt goodwill to Mr. Brennan and his entire family."
Kellie Brennan, Brennan's sister-in-law, told reporters: "It's very hard to express the overwhelming sense of joy that we have today."
Journalists and humanitarian workers are frequently abducted for ransoms in Somalia, one of the world's poorest and most war-torn countries. Foreign and local workers generally travel in convoys heavily guarded by freelance militiamen.
Somalia has been mired in anarchy and chaos since 1991 when warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.