Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Taliban Threaten to Behead Canadian Hostage

Via Globe and Mail -

A Canadian held hostage after she travelled to the lawless tribal belt of northern Pakistan says the Taliban will behead her by the end of the month if a ransom isn't paid.

In a new video provided to The Globe and Mail, Beverly Giesbrecht expresses fear for her life if her captors aren't paid.

“I have been advised and asked to make this video. We have very short time now and I am going to be killed, as you can see,” she says, gesturing at the dagger on the wall behind her, pointed at her head.

She alluded to Piotr Stanczak, a kidnapped Polish engineer who was executed by militants last month, the first killing of a Western hostage in Pakistan since U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002.

“I am going to be beheaded just like the Polish engineer, probably by the end of the month. The deadline is by the end of March, and that's basically, I don't know, 18 days or 16 days,” she says, closing her eyes.

“I'm not quite sure how long that is but the time is very short and my life is going to end,” she adds in a choked voice.

In the short video, Ms. Giesbrecht, 52, wearing a head scarf and sitting on a wooden chair, says that she is being held by the Taliban “near the Afghan border, either Pakistan or Afghanistan.”

The video opens with a voice reciting from the Koran. Abu Jindal, a moniker adopted by some jihadis, appears in Arabic and Urdu, superimposed over Ms. Giesbrecht's face.

Ms. Giesbrecht, who is also known as Khadija Abdul Qahaar, has been a captive for four months.

The West Vancouver resident converted to Islam after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and runs a website, Jihad Unspun, that says it provides information “devoid of the constraints of mainstream media.” Her visa application to Pakistan said she was a freelance journalist working on a documentary for the Al-Jazeera television network.

She was captured by gunmen last November, reportedly by the Taliban commander Gul Bahadur, who leads fighters in the volatile North Waziristan region.

“I need some kind, someone to help me, the Pakistani government and my own country and somebody must move now, because my life is going to be over. I want to go home. So, these people are serious. Please help me,” a wavering Ms. Giesbrecht says in her latest video.

North Waziristan residents said the Taliban kidnapped her because they are struggling financially.

“They are in dire need of money. We are sure she will be released as they get the ransom. The demand of the money should be accepted and it is not an expensive deal to save her life,” said Muhammad Noor, sitting in a medical store in North Waziristan's Miranshah hamlet.

Though the involvement of local residents could help secure her release, common people and tribal elders in the embattled zone do not dare approach the Taliban. In the last year, decapitations of locals accused of being “spies for U.S. forces” have surged.

Earlier this month, a Taliban fighter who would identify himself only by the name Qari told The Globe and Mail that the Taliban would free Ms. Giesbrecht for $375, 000 (U.S.).

Initial reports had the Taliban asking for cash and a prisoner exchange. But Qari had said money alone could now secure her release.

The Canadian government is aware of the latest video but has no other comments, Lisa Monette, a spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs, said yesterday.

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