When I was in Somalia last year, the road connecting Mogadishu to the refugee town of Afgooye belonged to the occupying Ethiopian army. There were foot patrols and checkpoints everywhere. It was on this road that two foreign journalists, Aussie Nigel Brennan and Canadian Amanda Lindhout, plus two Somali bodyguards and a translator, were abducted this weekend. Which, in my opinion, makes it unlikely that the kidnapping was an impromptu grab. To get away with this crime in broad daylight, with Ethiopians breathing down their necks, the attackers needed to plan ahead.
But how would any kidnappers know where the journalists would be … and when? That kind of fine-grain intel points to an inside job. It’s only my suspicion, but apparently I’m not alone. “Some speculations say that the bodyguards themselves were also involved in the kidnappings,” my friend Mohamed Omar Hussein, a journalist, writes from Mogadishu.
I need to get confirmation of this, but it seems likely that the bodyguards were affiliated with the Shamo hotel. When I worked out of the Shamo last winter, the hotel provided my bodyguards for $10 per man per day (pictured). Dressed in U.S. style army uniforms and toting AK-47s, my security guys technically were infantrymen in the army of the Transitional Federal Government. But they spent all day every day hanging around the Shamo, protecting the hotel and its clients. Considering the TFG’s poor finances, it’s likely that the Shamo was paying the majority of the soldiers’ salaries.
If it was an inside job by TFG gunmen, then it’s probably wrong to blame the kidnapping on the Al Shabab insurgent group. Al Shabab and TFG foot soldiers would make a very strange match indeed.
But what do the abductors want? Hopefully, a ransom.