OTTAWA – The RCMP have arrested and charged a Somalian man in connection with the overseas hostage-taking of former journalist Amanda Lindhout.
Lindhout and photographer Nigel Brennan were seized by young gunmen near Mogadishu, Somalia, in August 2008. Both were released on Nov. 25, 2009.
The Mounties say Ali Omar Ader, a Somalian national, faces a criminal charge of hostage-taking for his purported role as a negotiator.
He was arrested Thursday in Ottawa. The RCMP say the suspect had been in town for a few days but the national police force would not reveal how he arrived in Canada.
At a news conference, RCMP Asst. Commissioner James Malizia said successfully prosecuting such a case “depends on a certain level of discretion.”
The RCMP’s Ottawa Integrated National Security Enforcement Team, supporting RCMP units and partner agencies worked on the case for since the abduction seven years ago, Malizia said.
Details of the lengthy investigation — which involved undercover operations, surveillance and wiretaps — would come out in court, he said.
“This investigation posed a number of significant challenges as it was carried out in an extremely high-risk environment in a country plagued with political instability.”
Malizia declined to say whether the Somalian government was aware of the probe.
Ader stood emotionless with his arms behind his back during a brief court appearance by video link Friday. The matter was adjourned until next Friday.
“We have very little information we can relay to you with confidence,” said his lawyer, Samir Adam. “Because it’s so early in the process, we’re not really able to comment.”
Lindhout, 34, has published a best-selling memoir of her traumatic experience, in which she reveals being sexually assaulted in captivity.
In 2009, the native of Red Deer, Alta., established The Global Enrichment Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering leadership in Somalia through educational and community-based programs.
Malizia lauded Lindhout, Brennan and their families for their courage and for providing witness statements that assisted the police investigation.
“The RCMP fully understands that criminal investigations and the ensuing prosecutions are difficult. Victims and witnesses must relive events that they should not have had to endure in the first place,” Malizia said.
“I have personally been in touch with Miss Lindhout to provide her with these latest developments, and I continue to admire her resilient spirit after having gone through such an ordeal.”
The Mounties noted the police force’s mandate extends beyond Canada’s borders, where the extra-territorial provisions of the Criminal Code come into effect.
The RCMP acknowledged the help of the Canada Border Services Agency, Foreign Affairs and the Australian Federal Police.
— With a file from Bruce Cheadle