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-Qaida.
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.
The now retired diplomat blames a possible leak of his whereabouts from someone in the Niger government or perhaps an al-Qaida sympathizer with the U.N. office in West Africa or New York.
Only the government and the U.N. knew his itinerary.
"I know somebody shopped me," Fowler said.
He said Niger "hated" the mission, aimed at resolving a dispute between rebels and the government over resource royalties. Niger President Mamdou Tandja appeared "offended, annoyed (and) embarrassed" by the U.N.'s decision to send an envoy to the impoverished country, Fowler said in the interview.
Al-Qaida's North Africa branch claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. Al-Qaida 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.
Tandja 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-Qaida in Islamic North Africa.
Fowler said he was targeted because he was with the United Nations and was possibly the "most senior U.N. creature" they had seized.
He said he was now doing fine but wondered whether he might still suffer post-traumatic stress.
As Canada's longest-serving ambassador to the U.N., Fowler held the post from 1995 to 2000. He was ambassador to Italy for six years after that and is considered an expert on Africa.