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Amanda Lindhout tells of Somali kidnap nightmare in A House in the Sky

Five years after their Somali kidnap nightmare, the Canadian woman who was held captive with Australian journalist Nigel Brennan has revealed she feared for her life as she was kept gagged, hog-tied and was repeatedly gang-raped by her teenage captors inside a filthy compound.

At one point, Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout was threatened with a knife held to her throat and told that unless her family paid a $1 million ransom, she would be killed within the week.

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Amanda Lindhout gang raped in Somalia

Former journalist Amanda Lindhout reveals details of her 15-month ordeal, held hostage in Somalia with Australian photo journalist Nigel Brennan.

Mr Brennan released a book two years ago about his ordeal and now Ms Lindhout has written a book in which she details her hellish experiences while being forced to negotiate for her ransom money to be paid.

The pair previously had a relationship and in August 2008, they met in Kenya to travel to Somalia to work as freelance journalists. Ms Lindhout was new to this work. A year earlier, she had quit her job as a waitress and was kidnapped in Iraq.

So she moved.

Destination: Mogadishu.


"I understood that it was a hostile, dangerous place and few reporters dared go there,” she writes in her memoir, A House in the Sky. β€œThe truth was, I was glad for the lack of competition. I figured I could make a short visit and report from the edges of disaster. I'd do stories that mattered, that moved people.”

But just four days into their Somali trip, Mr Brennan and Ms Lindhout were kidnapped. She says they were heading to a hospital. He says the destination was an internally displaced persons camp.

Their car was surrounded by a group of armed men who abducted them and kept them hostage in a compound.

Ms Lindhout has until now refrained from speaking about the specifics of her ordeal. Her new book, co-written by Sara Corbett, is due for release in North America next week.

In it, she outlines being repeatedly raped and tortured by the gang of teenage boys who held her captive.

"The houses they picked for us were mostly deserted buildings in tucked-away villages, where all of us - Nigel, me, plus the eight young men and one middle-aged captain who guarded us - would remain invisible," she wrote.

The truth was, I was glad for the lack of competition. I figured I could make a short visit and report from the edges of disaster.

"All of these places were set behind locked gates and surrounded by high walls made of concrete or corrugated metal. When we arrived at a new house, the captain fumbled with his set of keys. The boys, as we called them, rushed in with their guns and found rooms to shut us inside."

Ms Lindhout and Mr Brennan converted to Islam in an attempt to appease their captors, but things changed for the worse – given they were not married, they were separated.

She told Mr Brennan of being forced to lie face-down on her bed while the gang played Russian Roulette with an assault rifle pointed at her head. She writes in the book of being hog-tied, gagged and gang-raped.

It was also reported that Ms Lindhout gave birth to a son, fathered by one of her captors, while she was held hostage. She has not spoken about those claims.

Ms Lindhout also revealed how being made to wash her contact lenses in contaminated water gave her an infection. A fungal growth grew inside her mouth and her toenails fell out.

While the pair were being held, the families of Ms Lindhout and Ms Brennan were frustrated with the responses of the Canadian and Australian governments in refusing to pay the ransom to have the pair freed.

The pair's captors forced them at one point to phone their families. Mr Brennan told in his book of hearing Ms Lindhout beg her mother to secure just her own release.

The pair are believed to be no longer on speaking terms. Mr Brennan on Sunday set off from London as a competitor in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

Using private companies, the families secured the pair's release in November 2009. In Mr Brennan's case, former Greens leader Bob Brown and businessman Dick Smith donated to ensure he was freed.

Ms Lindhout is now the chair of the Global Enrichment Foundation, which she set up to work for better lives for women in Kenya and Somalia.

Adrian Lowe