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Australian hostage set to leave Somalia -

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Australian hostage set to leave Somalia

Michael Vincent reported this story on Thursday, November 26, 2009 12:10:00

ELEANOR HALL: To Somalia, where after being held hostage for 15 months, Australian Nigel Brennan
and his Canadian colleague Amanda Lindhout are spending their first night of freedom in a Mogadishu
hotel.

The two journalists were taken hostage by gunmen last August when they were on their way to report
on a refugee camp just outside the capital.

They say they don't know who their captors were, but that they suspect they were motivated simply
by money rather than by ideology.

Our reporter Michael Vincent spoke to Nigel Brennan this morning and he joins us now.

Michael, how did Nigel Brennan sound?

MICHAEL VINCENT: Well Eleanor, this is an extraordinary story of endurance. He sounded tired, it
was just before midnight when I spoke to him in Mogadishu. He was in good spirits and actually
quite coherent for someone who hasn't had a lot to say or do except live in fear of their life for
the past, well more than 12 months.

He wouldn't give an interview, he was adamant about that. He said it was for security reasons. But
he did talk to me and said that they aren't out of danger yet. And that they are reported to be
under guard and they're hoping to leave the Somali capital to be reunited with family members very
soon.

ELEANOR HALL: Michael, you say that he wouldn't give a broadcast interview, we have though heard
from Amanda Lindhout. Why was she speaking?

MICHAEL VINCENT: Well just before they were released by the kidnappers, rather just after they were
released by the kidnappers. Linda Lindhout did give a phone interview with Canadian broadcaster
CTV. She went into a lot of detail about her ordeal, which you'll hear from my piece in a moment.

But Nigel Brennan said that while he also spoke news agency Reuters and she spoke to CTV they were
both in shock when they did so. Now they've been advised they shouldn't speak any more for concerns
about their safety, but we are able to have a sense about how they were feeling immediately after
their release.

And my piece begins with a reading of what he told Reuters.

NIGEL BRENNAN (voiceover): We've been through a pretty rough time, both of us. Just to be free is
amazing. It hasn't been the most pleasant experience of my life, but I'm just happy that I'm alive;
happy that I'm alive and looking forward to seeing my family and trying to pick up the threads of
my life.

MICHAEL VINCENT: Soon Nigel Brennan will be reunited with his family, but he says even until the
very end he had no idea his kidnappers were going to release him.

NIGEL BRENNAN (voiceover): Tonight we were ripped out of our rooms, stripped of everything, told to
put on new clothes and then thrown in a car and driven. We had no idea what was going on.

MICHAEL VINCENT: He and his colleague Amanda Lindhout were reportedly driven to a location in the
capital and simply handed over to local authorities.

It wasn't his first taste of freedom. He and Lindhout escaped in February and reportedly found
sanctuary in a nearby mosque before they were recaptured. After that point, he says, they were held
separately.

NIGEL BRENNAN (voiceover): Locked in a room, very little light. I haven't been able to exercise at
all, you know, simple things like being told not to smile, not to laugh. Not that there was much to
laugh about.

But my friend Amanda had a pretty rough time. I know that. She was severely beaten and we were both
tortured, both mentally and physically. Being pistol whipped is sort of torture, being completely
stripped of everything and then locked in a room, no-one to speak, it's a form of torture really.
It's been pretty arduous the last 15 months.

MICHAEL VINCENT: And Amanda Lindhout has confirmed to Canadian network CTV that she was abused by
her kidnappers.

AMANDA LINDHOUT: There was times when I was beaten, that I was tortured; extremely, extremely
difficult situation.

CTV REPORTER: Were you given a reason why you were beaten?

AMANDA LINDHOUT: Yeah, because the money wasn't coming quickly enough for these men and they seemed
to think that if they beat me enough then when I was able to speak to my mother, which they would
put me on the line with her every couple of months, that I would be able to say the right thing to
convince her to pay the ransom for me, which was a million dollars.

Whereas my family didn't have a million dollars and it didn't matter what I said to them but they
didn't really understand that. They thought, she's Canadian, everyone in Canada's rich, she must
have a million dollars.

So they would beat me to try to prompt me to say these magic words that the money would produce
itself but of course it never did.

MICHAEL VINCENT: To get through her ordeal the freelance journalist says she focussed on images of
her favourite places and imagined what it would be like to be see her family again.

AMANDA LINDHOUT: There were some pretty dark moments, yeah, but I think human beings have an
enormous capacity to adjust to trying circumstances and it was the idea of coming home, of a
reunion with my family that kept me going.

In that darkness I would just try to escape in my mind to a sunny place, usually Vancouver. In my
mind I'd imagine running around Stanley Park and things like that and that kept me going.

CTV REPORTER: I'm wondering if those bi-monthly phone calls to your mother were a chance to get in
touch with the outside world. That must have been helpful to you too huh?

AMANDA LINDHOUT: It was always great to hear my mother's voice. The conversations were very short
and they were usually scripted on my part. My mother wasn't allowed to ask any question and I also
wasn't allowed to say what I wanted to say.

They would come to me beforehand with a pen and paper and sort of guide me and tell me what I
needed to say to her and it was just, so, of course it was always wonderful to hear my mother's
voice but the circumstances that we were talking were not very happy.

MICHAEL VINCENT: In Australia this morning friends and family of Nigel Brennan are overwhelmed at
his release and are now awaiting his safe return.

His sister-in-law Kellie Brennan and his brother Matt read from a prepared statement on behalf of
his family in Sydney.

KELLIE BRENNAN: It's very hard to express the overwhelming sense of joy that we have today as we
feel as a family that the news of Nigel and Amanda's release. I want to make it really clear to you
all that they are still in Somalia and they are not out of danger yet.

Nigel and Amanda were kidnapped just outside of Mogadishu on the 23rd of August 2008. 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.

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. In terms of Nigel's physical health, he will
receive a full medical check once they are in a safe location and I cannot stress enough to you
that they are not out of harm's way yet. As soon as he is safe and fit to fly they will be coming
home.

MATT BRENNAN: As Nigel's brother, I would like to add to what Kellie has said about how delighted
we are with the news of Nigel and Amanda's release. I would especially like to thank all those who
have been involved in getting us to this point.

As you would appreciate, we are still not out of the woods and we would appreciate the media's
ongoing support and cooperation. Thanks again for coming.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Matt Brennan, the brother of freed journalist Nigel Brennan, and that report
by Michael Vincent.