Al-Qaeda was paid ransom for hostages, says WikiLeaks

2011-02-05 11:42

Al-Qaeda in Africa was strengthened by a ransom paid for the release of two Canadian hostages two years ago, a newly released US diplomatic cable suggested yesterday.

Canadian Robert Fowler was serving as a United Nations (UN) special envoy to Niger when he and fellow Canadian UN official Louis Guay were taken hostage on December 14 2008 by militants armed with AK-47s.

The pair and two European tourists were released after 130 days in captivity – each day marked with a scratch on Fowler’s leather belt.

A brief mention of a ransom appeared this week in a US cable released by WikiLeaks.

“There had been eight kidnappings in the past six months, including the two Canadian officials who were recently released in return for a ransom payment,” Libya’s former intelligence chief Musa Kusa told US ambassador Gene Kretz, according to the US cable.

“Such payments were unfortunate and only increased the strength of Al-Qaeda,” he added.

The daily Globe and Mail had reported that Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb prisoners had been released from African prisons and the kidnappers were paid millions of dollars for the release of the hostages.

Ottawa denied paying a ransom and the prisoner swap. 

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