B.C. journalist reveals details of abduction in hostage video

There were renewed calls Monday for the release of B.C. freelance journalist Khadija Abdul Qahaar, kidnapped in Pakistan three months ago, with Canadian government officials saying they are pursuing all avenues to secure her freedom.

Qahaar, 52, of West Vancouver was abducted in November while filming a documentary on the Taliban in the northwest Bannu district.

A convert to Islam, Qahaar, who changed her name from Beverly Giesbrecht, publishes her own online magazine called Jihad Unspun.

Her kidnappers have reportedly asked for a ransom of $150,000 and the release of Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan in exchange for her return.

The Canadian Association of Journalists issued a press release Monday urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to “redouble efforts” to free Qahaar and another Canadian journalist kidnapped in Somalia.

Amanda Lindhout of Red Deer. Alta., was abducted in the East African country in August and is still missing.

Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Lisa Monette told CBC News Monday the department is continuing its efforts to secure Qahaar’s release, but she would not provide any further details, citing security concerns.

CBC News has obtained a video of Qahaar in which she is seen pleading for help in getting released.

In the five-minute video, Qahaar says she is cold and afraid.

“I have been in captivity now for almost three months,” she says. “I wake up in the dark, and I go to sleep in the dark. There is nothing for the wood furnace and not enough wood.”

In the video, Qahaar is flanked by what appear to be two Taliban fighters cradling Kalashnokovs. She is sitting outdoors on a folding chair wearing a padded camouflage jacket and a blue headscarf.

Just before she disappeared, Qahaar posted an appeal to Muslims on Jihad Unspun asking them to contribute money so she could finish her documentary. The documentary, she said, was going to counteract what she described as “biased coverage” in the Western media of the war in Afghanistan.

In the video, Qahaar says she had completed taping of the documentary but returned to Pakistan a second time to shoot a feature on an old man she met who had a valuable collection of ancient Islamic coins.

“So, I wanted to help him,” she said in the video. “I made arrangements to come back again for me to take pictures of it and take it to Sotheby’s [auction house] in London.”

On her way to or from the interview with the coin collector, Qahaar’s car was stopped by armed men who abducted her.

“I am not sure exactly [about] my location. I am [in] some place in the Afghan border area. There are air raids … This is a war zone,” she says in the video.

A Pakistani newspaper has reported that Qahaar is being held near Miran Shah, a city in North Waziristan, a mountainous region in Pakistan’s northwest bordering Afghanistan. For the past year, the U.S. has been launching cross-border missile attacks at suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters hiding there.


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