Telegraph foreign correspondent Colin Freeman has revealed how him and photographer Jose Cendon sought to establish a rapport with their captors after being kidnapped in Somalia.
The pair were released on January 4 after 40 days being held by a gang in caves.
‘During an assignment to report on Somalia’s escalating piracy problem, my photographer JosÃ© CendÃ³n and I had been kidnapped by our own armed bodyguards, marched at gunpoint into the mountains, and hustled from one cave to another for 40 days and 40 nights. In our time together, we would receive death threats, live in fear of illness or madness, and – toughest of all – deal with the daily psychological onslaught from the volatile Jekyll-and-Hyde characters holding us: bandits who would threaten to beat us up or slit our throats one minute, then offer cigarettes and cups of tea the next.”
He said that their bodyguards had ‘turned their guns on us while escorting us from our hotel to the airport in Boosaaso, a ramshackle, pirate-infested fishing port where we had just finished a week-long assignment”.
Freeman wrote: ‘Media ‘hostile environment courses’ always recommend that, if kidnapped, you should try to establish a rapport with your captors. The more you come across as a human being, apparently, the harder they find it to kill you. Yet our breakthrough with Fraisal [gamg member] that day could not dispel my sense of utter despair. The initial shock as we’d been spirited away hadn’t been as terrifying as I’d expected – perhaps because after two years based in Baghdad, it was a prospect I’d mentally rehearsed a thousand times.”
Writing about the day they were released, Freeman said it followed around ten phone calls to London over the course of his captivity and lengthy negotiations.
‘Before sunrise the campfire was stamped out, our blankets rolled up, and the gang members clicked fresh bullets into the magazines of their Kalashnikovs. Not for the first time, I entertained visions of the hand-over ending in a bloodbath.
‘We walked in single file and in silence for a couple of hours until an SUV equipped with a rocket-propelled grenade launcher suddenly swung into sight and we were bundled in. After bouncing along some more mountain roads, we were handed over to the elders.
‘A few hours later, and we were on a plane flying to Nairobi in Kenya. There were joyful phone calls to my family in Britain, a tearful reunion with my girlfriend, Jane, who’d flown out to meet me, and a night getting extremely drunk with JosÃ©.”