The September 11 terror attacks were a watershed event in the life of a Canadian journalist named Beverly Giesebrecht.
Soon after Al Qaeda terrorists killed 3,000 people in the U.S., Giesebrecht converted to Islam, adopted a new name — Khadija Abdul Qahaar — and spent the next two years studying the Koran in Egypt.
She created a pro-Jihadi Web site, Jihad Unspun, and she developed a network of contacts, contributors and translators, some of whom introduced her to the Taliban in Pakistan.
She wrote of her motivations online:
"I became obsessed with finding out what was really going on. In the early days of my research, I remember sitting at five in the morning, exhausted, after going from link to link to link to link, starring at the face of Osama bin Laden. This man does not have the face of a cold blooded killer. This is not a Charles Manson. There has to be something more.
"I made the decision to launch a website with the hope of informing the public about some of the things I had come to know and to give voice to the other side of war on 'terrorism.'
"There was no question in my mind, from the first days of my research, that the so-called war on 'terrorism' was a sham. This is not a war on 'terrorism' — this is a war against Muslims and our resources.
"It is my hope that this will inspire others to Islam and to take a stand against this shameful war on 'terrorism.'"
The anti-American Web site provided news articles, first-person commentary and opinion pieces that criticized Canadian support for American foreign policy, and translations of speeches and writings by Usama bin Laden and Taliban leaders, among others. Qahaar quickly established a reputation for being able to connect with militants, and she was even hired to help work in research and production of a documentary called "Dining With Terrorists" that aired on Al Jazeera.
And then last November, the Taliban, the group she had befriended, kidnapped her while she was chasing a story in the Bannu region of northern Pakistan. In a video released after her capture, Qahaar says she's being held by the Taliban, though it's not clear exactly who is holding her. Officials have not provided clarification, saying only that there are many criminal gangs in the region who call themselves the Taliban.
Now, four and a half months later, 11th-hour negotiations continue in efforts to save Qahaar's life and secure her release. Her captors have demanded $375,000 in ransom money by the end of March, and they have threatened to kill her if their demand isn't met.
Exactly what happened in November, and why, remains unclear. That the Taliban has kidnapped one of its own supporters — and one who has given them a media platform — is puzzling to terror experts and Qahaar's former colleagues.
"She is definitely sympathetic to Al Qaeda, to the Taliban, there's no doubt about it — and she believes in jihad," said terror expert Steven Emerson, who has followed Qahaar's Web site. "I think — and this is just based on logic and rationale — it just doesn't make sense that they would threaten to kill her unless they get money, when she's been such use to them spreading their word in the Western world."
Phil Rees, a BBC reporter-turned-documentary filmmaker, met Qahaar in Kuala Lumpur in 2006 and hired her for nine weeks to work on "Dining with Terrorists."
"I hired her for her Taliban contacts. She was a good source for contacts from the jihad side of things. She delivered," Rees said.
After three months in Pakistan and a 10-day shoot in Lebanon, Qahaar told Rees she wanted to move back to Pakistan to pursue her Taliban contacts and the greater story.
"I remember, she told me about how she wanted to live there. Why? Because it's a hot story! It's the absolutely most central story on the global terrorism end," Rees said.
"She was desperate to forge a career as a journalist and she had very exclusive access — I think that's what she saw, that she could cut into mainstream journalism by doing this — and hell, well, if you could get Usama, you've made it for life."
"She was translating the words of Taliban and Al Qaeda — she was my insurance policy," he said. "Why would they kidnap her? I never thought they would kidnap her."
Qahaar returned to Pakistan in August, but by October she had posted a letter on her Web site soliciting donations from her readers to get out of an increasingly dangerous area.
"Pakistan is now erupting into a full-scale war zone," she wrote. "We have been in some very sensitive areas and even Islamabad is now locked down. As foreigners we must leave the country however we do not have the funds to get out.
"As a woman, I have already had a few close calls in the tribal areas as kidnappers and thieves are running loose even in Peshawar but alhamdulilah Allah has helped us.
"This matter is urgent and inshaAllah I can count on our good supporters to help. Again I must apologize for having to make this request but at this time I have no other alternatives. With no family, it is my brothers and sisters that I must turn to for help. Please."
The following month, in November, Qahaar was kidnapped. In series of videos posted on jihadist Web sites since then, she has appeared increasingly desperate and debilitated.
In the most recent video, released to the Miranshah Press Club on March 18, Qahaar says her captors demand ransom payment of 2 million Rupees — about $25,000 — by the end of March. On earlier tapes, she said her captors were demanding $375,000.
"I'm pleading with you, save my life. Spare me," she says. "We have a very short time now, I'll probably be beheaded."
"At this point, you're going to kill a 53-year-old lady who is sympathetic and runs a good Web site? Why would you do that?" Emerson asks. "But you also just don't know what's going on there and it's impossible to tell where the video came from. There are a lot of questions."
Rees dismisses the idea that Qahaar is working with the Taliban and that the kidnapping is a hoax intended to raise money. The videos confirm that Qahaar is in real trouble, he says.
"Did they turn her? I've thought about it, I just don't believe it.
"Listen, I know her. She needs like a million things, stuff for teeth, she's persnickety about everything, she needs vitamins, healthcare ... Who would do that? She wouldn't do that.
"Look at the state she's in. She looks completely awful — this isn't an acting thing. No, I'm sorry. No way. Not for a moment.
"She believed the Taliban were legitimate in resisting armed forces in that country, she believed she could interview these people because she could give them fair hearing and I believe they turned on her," Rees said.
"And after all this, she's depending on the support of the same governments she spoke out against."
Mindful of her captors' deadline, Pakistani and Canadian officials have been meeting and strategizing in Islamabad, while the local government authority has been negotiating with tribal elders who have been meeting with the Taliban.
"Pakistan is very much cognizant of what is going on and they are searching for her, in both North and South Waziristan, and tribal elders are negotiating with the local government authority," a Pakistani official told FOXNews.com.
"These kinds of instances are usually resolved through military and intelligence channels, and that is what is happening."
Lisa Monette, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, said, "We are not commenting or releasing any information which would compromise our ongoing efforts or endanger the safety of the individual involved, but we continue to pursue all channels for seeking the release of Ms. Giesebrecht."
"I need somebody to help me," Qaahar pleaded on the most recent video. "My government — the Canadian government, the Pakistan government — I want to go home."
Click to view image: 'Kidnapped Traitor'
In: Iran, News
Tags: kidnapping, mystery, giesebrecht, pakistan, canadian, taliban, gangs, traitor, convert, islam, terrorist, jihadist
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