David Kawai / The Ottawa Citizen
Robert Fowler speaks at a University of Ottawa reception in honour of his and Louis Guay’s safe return to Ottawa
· Friday, Feb. 4, 2011
A “ransom” that was paid for the release of two kidnapped Canadian diplomats increased the strength of al-Qaeda in Africa, Libya’s foreign minister complained, according to a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.
The cable dated 2009, describes comments made by Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa regarding the release of the Canadians that year.
Robert Fowler, who had been appointed as a special UN envoy to Niger, and Louis Guay, were captured in December 2008 and spent 130 days being held by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) before being released.
Postmedia News reported following the release that four jailed “mujahedeen” fighters had been released to al-Qaida’s North Africa branch in exchange for the two Canadian diplomats and two European women.
While the Conservative government said it had stuck to its public policy of neither paying a ransom nor freeing prisoners for hostages, Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the time seemed to leave open the possibility that other countries had fronted a deal.
The Algerian daily El Khabar reported at the time that an unnamed European country paid a ransom of five million euros.
In the cable, Kusa said al-Qaida was expanding its influence in the Saharan belt and North Africa.
He said there had been eight kidnappings in the past six months, including the two Canadians, “who were recently released in return for a ransom payment.”
The cable recounts Kusa describing the payments as “unfortunate and only increased the strength of al-Qaida.”
No details of the ransom were mentioned in the cable, which was recently released by the WikiLeaks website.
WikiLeaks has shot to international prominence in the past year by leaking a flood of U.S. diplomatic cables and other documents.