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After almost five months of holding kidnapped American/German Michael Scott Moore without results, his kidnappers are getting impatient. Somalia Report has obtained exclusive video footage of Moore filmed by his captors on Friday May 18, 2012. Two local journalists from Galkayo were driven to the spot in a Toyota Hilux blindfolded. One journalist was ordered to videotape the staged event while the other took still photos. His kidnappers have been demanding a ransom but without any luck. The three dozen kidnappers are living under the daily fear of attack by U.S. Special Operations based in nearby Camp Lemonnier.
Mr. Moore went to Somalia in early January of 2012 to write about Somalia and pirates. Now he has a front row seat. He had met a former resident of central Somalia in Germany who had invited him to Galmadug to write about the idea of developing a port to handle World Food Programme deliveries in Hobyo. Moore knew that Somalia was a dangerous place for foreigners having written about the region since 2008. Today Somalia has just under 300 international hostages currently being held for ransom.
Two weeks into his trip he was scheduled to take the African Express flight to Nairobi via Mogadishu. Although the trip to the airport from his hotel in Galkayo didn't seem that dangerous, the risk factors were there. Western journalists kidnapped by their own or government-provided security guards include Canadian Amanda Lindhout, Australian Nigel Brennan, Brit Colin Freeman and Spaniard José Cendon. Three months earlier Jessica Buchanan and Poul Hagen Thisted had just wrapped up a class on demining safety and were also on the road to the Galkayo airport. They were kidnapped by their security detail who had secretly colluded with pirates.
Assured of security by forces in Galkayo even after that kidnapping, Moore thought he was safe when he left to catch the flight in Galkayo. They lied. His kidnappers knew he was worth much more in ransom than any publicity he would provide on the plight of the Somali people.
Just Another Journalist Kidnapped In Somalia
Moore lived in Berlin and wrote for the German media company Der Spiegel . He was best known for writing "Sweetness and Blood", an adventurous travelogue about the origins of surfing. The Manhattan Beach, California resident was also known as writer for alternative weeklies.
Based on the immersive style of his book and perhaps the frigid weather in Berlin, it wouldn't be unusual for Moore to take someone up on their offer to visit Somalia to write about pirates and its people.
On the way to the airport in Galkayo, he was kidnapped. The modus operandi was identical to the previous kidnapping in which an American and Dane from the Danish Demining Group (DDG) were kidnapped.
The kidnap of the aid workers were to feature in Moore's future when on January 25, 2012, a week after he was kidnapped U.S. Special Operations troops locked down Galkayo, HALO'd SEALS from the sky, silently executed suprised Somali guards and then successfully loaded the two hostages on to waiting helicopters.
The U.S. military planning required to rescue the DDG employees had taken weeks. Intel gathering using phone intercepts, visual confirmation via persistent surveillance linked to commandos' timing the rescue to coincide with the guards crashing from their late night bouts of chewing qat. Just to be sure there were no surprises, each armed Somalia either sleeping or awake was killed with the well practiced double tap. In all nine kidnappers were killed during the 3:30am blacked out rescue.
There was not enough time to locate or include Moore in the tightly coordinated and timed rescue. While the grateful NGO's were whisked back to Camp Lemonnier, the rescuers knew the fate of the other kidnapped American would be adversely affected by their success.
A Dangerous Business
The rescue changed the dynamics of Somali kidnapping. Now criminals could no longer calmly wait out the machinations of hostage negotiators or inure themselves to the pleas of family as they waited for a final ransom payment. The rescue also put pressure on the kidnappers who are from the Sa'ad clan of Hawiye sub-clan since the clan members of the Saleban clan who were killed in the DDG rescue now wanted to grab Moore in revenge. The kidnappers had demanded $10 million for the NGO pair and demanded the same for Moore. The difference is that the pirates have added more men to guard Moore which drives up their daily cost and logistics. Moore's kidnappers are now asking for $20 million, about 20 times what a hostage ransom normally brings.
When Moore was kidnapped he was first taken to the Hobyo area. Initially politicians, elders and businessmen tried to negotiate with the kidnappers. Under pressure from locals who did not want to be under attack, the kidnappers immediately called for reinforcements and Moore was quickly moved to Ceel Huur, a pirate launching point near Harardhere. Rumors of Moore moved aboard ships abounded and then the American was taken to the traditional hostage holding area around Wisil.
The same kidnap group is also holding two Seychellois fishermen, Songoire Marc and Rolly Tambara as well as the crew of the fishing vessel Aride. The two female MSF employees, the crew of the MV Leopard and other victims are also in the vicinity.
Censorship and Blackout
It appears that Moore may have also have been on assignment for Der Spiegel. After hearing of Moore's kidnap, the German media organization immediately began a campaign to hide their relationship with Moore, sending out emails to censor any media coverage. Emails were sent to Somalia Report and other publications demanding that they cease any coverage of his kidnap. Some publications complied, some did not. There were no inquiries as to his health or safety. His blog has been shut down and Moore's articles on Somalia that date back to 2008 have been removed and can only be found from sources other than Der Spiegel's website.
Attempts at news blackouts and censor ship by the affected media are standard practice when corporations and aId groups hire professional security companies to manage kidnaps and reduce their corporate liability. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and other high level corporations have attempted Is also is bad news for the victim because it means that corporate interests will be overriding all others. It also means that the pirates know they are dealing with someone with insurance and will attempt threatening and often theatrical stunts to gain traction. This corporate strategy of protecting corporate assets over insuring the speedy release of hostages has extended time held in captivity in the maritime sector as well. The average time for a mariner in captivity has extended from 30 days in 2008 to half a year. Non corporate hostages have spend between a year and two years in captivity.
Moore holds both a U.S. and German passport and it is not clear which country or corporation is taking the lead in his rescue or welfare. Germany currently does not have any anti terrorism resources in the region but the United States maintains significant intelligence and surveillance assets in Djibouti, Kenya and in the Indian Ocean.
Video Of Moore Filmed Last Week
Somalia Report has been checking on the health and status of Moore since he was kidnapped. We have maintained an open door policy for any photos, video or reports. A video was sent to us on Sunday, May 20th, 2012 that was recorded two days earlier.
The video is carefully staged and is similar to recordings of the MV Leopard crew in which they even pull out hankies and pretend to cry. Although the plight of the kidnapped foreigners is serious and proof of life is critical, it must be made clear that the video has been released to Somalia Report in a direct attempt to put pressure on negotiators.
The translator requests that Moore ask the German government to pay the ransom and to give an answer in three days. Moore tries to remember his lines. "The kidnappers will sell me to al-Shabaab," he says on cue.
The kidnappers then ask Moore to repeat and make sure he adds the U.S. government will pay the ransom.
"Both of them," he answers clumsily.
The kidnapper asks, "What are you feeling now, for your health?"
"My life is terrible," Moore says several times.
"How much food do you get per day?"
Moore insists, with off camera prompting, that he has not eaten for two days and that his health is bad without adding any specifics. During the filming, the English-speaking Somali kidnapper is frustrated with the Somali cameraman's command of English and begins asking the questions directly.
Moore is also being held with two men captured from the Aride, a boat hijacked off the Seychelles, but they did not appear in the video. Pirates told Somalia Report that the "white man" is tied to a tree and that the "black man" named "Lorry" is fine. There was no information provided on the condition of the Aride crew.
The journalist who filmed this video did not work for Somalia Reportand were blindfolded when taken to the location near Wisil outside of Hobyo. He was compensated for the exclusive use of the video. The other journalist is selling the still photos taken at the same time.
Historically Somali kidnappers do not harm their captives and are known for these type of stunts. But other pirate groups have beaten, starved and in one case amputated a hand to force payments. This kidnap group has not harmed a hostage in the past.
As a minor note of consolation, almost all of the western journalists who have been kidnapped have written books on their ordeal.
">Link to video is on Somalia Report's Facebook site.