I’ve just spoken with a source who is familiar with the negotiations that took place for the release of Canadian diplomats Robert Fowler and Louis Guay from the Canadian and British side. He or she confirms they were sprung because of a ransom and prisoner exchange.
This information now comes from multiple different sources and cannot be discounted as speculative. J. Peter Pham, an Africa specialist at James Madison University, has it from senior officials in the government and security services of Mali and Niger that a prisoner swap was in the works, and he later spoke to an Algerian security source who said that Germany and Switzerland paid a ransom of about US$8 million. Al-Qaeda itself has confirmed in a statement that a prisoner exchange took place. Two separate Algerian newspapers, Ennahar and El Khabar, confirm aspects of the deal. Steven Edwards at Canwest News Service cites a “North African al-Qaeda observer with close links to people involved in the effort to free the Canadians,” who also confirmed the prisoner exchange and provided some details about the terror suspects Mali released.
All this raises an important question: If, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper claims, it is Canada’s policy not to pay a ransom or release prisoners in exchange for hostages, why is it okay for other countries to do so on our behalf?