Joy at release of journo

2009-11-26 09:43

Sydney - Emotional relatives of Somalia kidnap victim Nigel Brennan expressed joy on Thursday at his release from more than a year of brutal captivity, where he was pistol-whipped and spent months in chains.

Sister-in-law Kellie Brennan fought back tears as she recounted the family's nerve-wracking vigil since the photojournalist's capture along with Canadian reporter Amanda Lindhout in August 2008.

"It's very hard to express the overwhelming sense of joy that we have today that we feel as a family at the news of Nigel and Amanda's release," she told reporters here.

"I want to make it really clear to you all that they are still in Somalia and they are not out of danger yet."

The unidentified kidnappers told AFP that a $1m ransom was paid to free the pair, who remain in Somalia's anarchic capital, Mogadishu, and will be flown out for medical checks before returning home.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh shed light on Brennan's grim ordeal.

Failed escape attempt

"Mr Brennan has revealed that he had been pistol-whipped and locked in chains for the past 10 months after a failed escape attempt," she told the state parliament.

"I'm sure that all Queenslanders would join me in offering our heartfelt goodwill to Mr Brennan and his entire family," Bligh said.

In May, Brennan, 38, told AFP by phone that he was in fading health and had been in chains for months, and begged his government for help.

Australian media have said he was kept in a dark room away from Lindhout and surrounded by armed men. They said he was suffering severe abdominal pains and passing blood, probably due to being fed contaminated food and water.

"I've been shackled for the last four months... My health is extremely poor and deteriorating rapidly due to extreme fever," Brennan said.

Harrowing and wearing ordeal

Reports also said Brennan and Lindhout had managed, in January, to escape from their captors and take sanctuary in a nearby mosque, only to be recaptured at gunpoint.

Speaking after her release, Lindhout said she spent her captivity "sitting in a corner on the floor 24 hours a day for the last 15 months. There were times that I was beaten, that I was tortured."

"It was extremely oppressive," she told Canadian broadcaster CTV. "I was kept by myself at all times. I had no one to speak to. I was normally kept in a room with a light, no window, I had nothing to write on or with. There was very little food."

She said the kidnappers told her that they beat her because the $1m ransom "wasn't coming quickly enough".

The "very tired" pair were in a Mogadishu hotel pending their Thursday departure from Somalia, hotel staff said. Kellie Brennan said the family would not relax until Nigel was safely home.

"For 462 days our family has hoped that this day would come. This has been an unbelievably harrowing and wearing ordeal and nothing could have prepared us as a family for what we have gone through since Nigel's capture," she said.

"This experience has taken its toll on us all and we are only too aware that Nigel is going to need plenty of time and space to readjust to normal life."