In Depth

Amanda Lindhout tells of 15 months of rape and torture

Canadian journalist came close to suicide following kidnapping in Somalia

A Canadian woman who was repeatedly tortured and raped while being held captive in Somalia for 15 months has spoken publicly about her ordeal for the first time.

Journalist Amanda Lindhout was 26 when she and her then boyfriend, 36-year-old Australian photographer Nigel Brennan, travelled to the East African nation in 2008.

They were abducted three days into their trip, on 23 August, while on the way to visit a camp for internally displaced people.

“We’re on a big open highway road and we see a car pulled over off to the side up ahead. Within minutes what unfolded was like something out of a nightmare,” she told Andrew Denton on Interview, on Australian TV’s Channel 7.

“There were about a dozen armed men who had been hiding behind that parked car. And the next thing I knew I had been abducted.”

The couple’s kidnappers demanded a $1.5m (£1.2m) ransom from each of their families.

For more than a year, Lindhout and Brennan were shunted around different houses, where they were beaten and starved, and where Lindhout was repeatedly raped.

At one point, she was driven out to the desert in the middle of the night and told, with a knife to her throat, that she would be beheaded if her mother failed to pay the ransom money within seven days. 

After 13 months of imprisonment, Lindhout was considering suicide, but a bird “hopping around” in the morning sun gave her hope again, she told Denton.

“I’d always believed in signs of a messenger, in a way, to hold on. And that bird was a messenger,” she said. “The desire to end my life left me and it never came back and this amazing feeling just flooded through my body, which was determination to survive no matter what - that I would have my freedom again, I would see my family.”

The couple were finally freed following 460 days in captivity, after their families managed to pull together a much smaller ransom and begged for their lives.

Earlier this year, the man who orchestrated the kidnapping and ransom, Ali Omar Ader, was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

“The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) lured Ader from Somalia to Canada with the promise of a lucrative book-publishing deal, leading to his arrest in Ottawa in June 2015,” reports the Daily Mail.

The 40-year-old Somalian was jailed in June following a trial at which Lindhout testified about her abuse.

She told Denton that she now feels like she has “let go of something” and that she still believes in the “goodness of humankind”.

“It’d be easy to watch the news and think that the world is mostly bad people doing terrible things and it's just absolutely not true. That is a small handful of people who, themselves, carry a great deal of pain that leads them to hurt other people,” she said.

“But actually, our world is just full of such kindness and goodness and compassion and I certainly experience that every day.”

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