TORONTO – A former United Nations special envoy to Niger who was kidnapped and later freed says he believes someone in the government of Niger or possibly with the United Nations betrayed him to Al Qaeda.
Former Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. in an interview to be broadcast Tuesday and Wednesday evenings that someone "shopped" him to his captors.
Fowler and his aide, Louise Guay, spent four months in captivity after they were taken at gunpoint last December while driving northwest of Niger's capital, Niamey.
In a story about the interview published on CBC's website, the now retired diplomat blames a possible leak of his whereabouts from someone in the Niger government or perhaps an Al Qaeda sympathizer with the U.N. office in West Africa or New York.
Only the government and the U.N. knew his itinerary.
He said Niger "hated" the mission, aimed at resolving a dispute between rebels and the government over resource royalties.
Al Qaeda's North Africa branch claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. Al Qaeda in Islamic North Africa, known by the French language acronym AQMI, is an Algeria-based group that joined Osama bin Laden's terrorist network in 2006 and conducts dozens of bombings or ambushes each month. It operates mainly in Algeria but is suspected of crossing the country's porous desert borders to spread violence in the rest of northwestern Africa.
President Mamadou Tandja of neighboring Niger blamed Fowler's abduction on a rebel group from the northern Niger ethnic minority of Tuareg nomads who are battling the government.
Tuareg rebels from the Front For Forces of Redress retracted their initial statement claiming responsibility for the kidnapping, saying their Web site had been hacked. But some Western intelligence officials believe the Tuaregs may have traded the hostages to Al Qaeda in Islamic North Africa.