Nigel in doctors' hands
FORMER NewsMail photographer Nigel Brennan is believed to be receiving medical care in Nairobi, where he fled after 15 months in captivity in Somalia.
Mr Brennan was reunited with his family in an emotional meeting in Nairobi last night, 15 months after he was taken hostage by a rebel group in Somalia.
Twelve hours after they were released from captivity, Mr Brennan and Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout were put on a charter flight to Kenya, where they arrived last night Queensland time.
They are then believed to have been taken to a Nairobi hospital for medical treatment following their traumatic time in captivity.
Australian businessman Dick Smith and Greens Senator Bob Brown have now confirmed they contributed substantial sums of money towards the ransom to help secure the pair's release, but Mr Smith said the amount was well short of $1 million, as has been reported.
Mr Brennan, whose parents Geoff and Heather live in Moore Park Beach, and Ms Lindhout were kidnapped by gunmen outside the capital Mogadishu on August 23 last year, but their hardship came to an end about 8.40pm on Wednesday local time (3.45am yesterday in Bundaberg).
They stayed at a hotel in Mogadishu for about 12 hours as officials worked to get them out of the strife-torn country.
Yesterday afternoon Queensland time, the pair took a charter flight in a small plane from Mogadishu to Nairobi, where Mr Daud said the pair were ushered away by Australian and Canadian officials as soon as their flight landed for an emotional reunion with their families.
“They are in Nairobi, having a private conversation with their families and with officials from Australia and Canada,” Mr Daud said.
He said no information had been given about when Mr Brennan and Ms Lindhout would be flying home, but it was understood that they would undergo medical examinations and get a clean bill of health before flying home.
“Everything for the journalists is now dependent on their governments,” Mr Daud said.
He said kidnappings of journalists were common in Somalia, and they did not always end well.
“I am very glad that there was a good outcome and that they are still alive,” he said.
Before they left Somalia, Mr Daud said Mr Brennan and Ms Lindhout met with the country’s prime minister Umar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke and spoke with him about their ordeal.
“They met the Somali prime minister today, who apologised for their situation,” Mr Daud said.
He said the prime minister was “angry at the group” who kidnapped the pair.
After staying tight-lipped for much of yesterday, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Stephen Smith confirmed that the pair arrived safely at Nairobi just before 10pm last night Queensland time.
“I welcome very much that Australian citizen Nigel Brennan and Canadian Amanda Lindhout have been released from captivity in Somalia,” Mr Smith said.
“Nigel and his family have suffered a terrible ordeal. As his family made clear yesterday, the focus will now be on Nigel’s wellbeing.
“Nigel’s family has worked tirelessly and with great courage to achieve his release.”
Meanwhile, Mr Brennan’s family and friends in Queensland were celebrating after news he had been freed from captivity.
Mr Brennan’s sister-in-law Kellie Brennan described the family’s “overwhelming” joy at his release.
“It’s very hard to express the overwhelming sense of joy that we have today as we feel as a family at the news of Nigel and Amanda’s release,” Ms Brennan told reporters in Sydney yesterday morning, just hours after receiving the good news.
“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.
“His experience has taken a toll on us all and we are only too aware that Nigel is going to need plenty of time and space to re-adjust to normal life.”
“As soon as he is safe and fit to fly, he will be coming home.”
At yesterday’s press conference in Sydney, she thanked officials, individuals and non-government organisations for their work to free her brother-in-law.