TORONTO (AP) — Canadian police have arrested a Somali man they say was involved in the kidnapping of two foreign journalists who were held in Somalia for more than 15 months before being freed nearly seven years ago.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Assistant Commissioner James Malizia announced the arrest Friday of Ali Omar Ader.
Canadian freelancer Amanda Lindhout and Australian photojournalist Nigel Brennan were kidnapped by gunmen on Aug. 23, 2008. They were released in November 2009 after a reported $700,000 ransom was paid, some of it by Australian entrepreneur Dick Smith.
Malizia said Ader, arrested Thursday in Ottawa, was one of the main negotiators within the group that carried out the kidnapping.
Malizia suggested that Ader was lured to Canada before being arrested. He declined to reveal how he arrived in Canada but said the suspect was first targeted in Somalia.
He said the arrest was the result of an undercover operation in Somalia that posed significant challenges and included surveillance and wire taps.
"It was carried out in an extremely high risk environment in a country plagued with political instability," Malizia said.
He said the details will come out in court and declined further comment. He also declined to say whether the Somalia government was aware of the investigation.
The RCMP acknowledged the help of the Canada Border Services Agency, Foreign Affairs and the Australian Federal Police throughout the process.
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. His lawyer, Samir Adam, said he had little information and it was too early to comment.
The two journalists were kept apart from each other, beaten and tortured during their ordeal. Lindhout also reported being raped.
"Amazing news of news of the arrest of Ali Omar Ader, AKA Adan the Somali criminal involved in my kidnapping. Finally Justice will be served!" Brennan tweeted.
He later tweeted that the Canadian government and police in Canada and Australia did incredible work and that he couldn't do interviews because of the ongoing investigation.
A spokeswoman for Lindhout said she was travelling and not immediately available to comment. Malizia thanked Lindhout, Brennan and their families for providing witness statements that assisted the police investigation.
Journalists and humanitarian workers are frequently abducted for ransom in Somalia, one of the world's poorest countries, mired in anarchy since 1991 when warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.
"This operation was mounted following the kidnapping and sexual abuse of Amanda Lindhout, a young, very courageous Canadian," Canadian Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said. "Now she can say that justice is being done in Canada."