Don’t you wish that the world’s news services could settle on a spelling for Qaddafi’s name and stick to it?
I refer, of course, to Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi, the venerable dictator of Libya. His last name seems to be spelled differently every time it appears in the news. A Google search turns up the following variants at least a hundred times apiece: Gaddhafi, Gadhafi, Ghadafi, Ghaddafi, Ghaddhafi, Kaddafi, Kaddhafi, Kadhafi, Khaddafi, Khaddhafi, Khadhafi, Qaddafi, Qaddhafi, Qadhafi, Qhadafi, and Qhaddafi.
“Qhadhafi” can also be found forty-two times, and I found one instance of “Qhaddhafi” in a Google books selection. There are probably more variants than these, but I got tired of inventing new ones and then searching for them.
To make matters worse, Khaddhafi’s first name can also be spelled “Moammar”, “Moamer”, “Mommar”, and probably dozens of other ways. With the two names in combination, searching for news stories about him becomes an exercise in advanced digital forensics.
The reason I bring all this up is that Mr. Ghadhafi has a son named Seif (also spelled “Saif” and goodness only knows how many other ways), who in recent years has become somewhat of an international celebrity and bon-vivant. This week the name (or names) of Qhadafi fils has come up in connection with the Austrian hostage crisis.
The latest word is that Austria is still refusing to pay ransom for Wolfgang Ebner and Andrea Kloiber, who were abducted on February 22nd while on vacation in Tunisia and are now believed to be held near Timbuktu in Mali. Their Al Qaeda captors — trying to guarantee themselves a hefty jackpot — extended the deadline by a week to Easter Day, in order to allow the Austrian government to reconsider its intransigence.
But so far the Austrians are holding firm. According to Magharebia:
Austria has refused to pay any ransom for the release of two Austrian tourists kidnapped from Tunisia in mid-February, press reports quoted Austrian negotiator Anton Prohaska as saying on Wednesday (March 19th). Algeria-based al-Qaeda Organisation in the Islamic Maghreb, which claimed responsibility for the abduction, has demanded a five million-euro ransom and the release of ten of its members jailed in Tunisia and Algeria. Austrian tourists Andrea Kloiber, 43, and Wolfgang Ebner, 51, are reportedly being held at an al-Qaeda base run by Mokhtar Belmokhtar about 150 km from Kidal in Northern Mali.
The deadline for releasing the Austrians has been extended to Sunday (March 23rd).
Kadhafi son optimistic on release of Austrian hostages
Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi’s son is in contact with the kidnappers of two Austrians abducted last month in Tunisia, and is optimistic they could soon be freed, the Austria Press Agency reported.
“Seif (Al-Islam) is negotiating with the kidnappers and is in his own words confident the whole thing will soon be concluded,” Austrian far-right politician Joerg Haider told APA.
Haider said earlier this week he had enrolled his long-time friend Seif Al-Islam to help negotiate the hostages’ release.
Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer has also reportedly called Kadhafi himself to help in the affair.
The daily Oesterreich reported Saturday that the Libyan leader discussed the hostage crisis with the president of Mali, where the Austrians are believed to be held, during a common visit to Uganda.
By the way: notice that Joerg Haider, who is described as a “far-right politician”, is very chummy with Muslims.
Vlaams Belang, Dansk Folkeparti, and Partij Voor de Vrijheid are also described as “extreme right-wing” parties, and yet are staunchly opposed to Islam.
This only goes to show that the term “right-wing” has outlived its usefulness as a descriptor of European party politics.
But back to our main story — it seems that the kidnappers may postpone their deadline yet again:
Oesterreich also quoted sources in Mali as saying the kidnappers could again postpone a Sunday midnight deadline for negotiations.
The abductors originally gave the Austrian government a March 16 deadline to secure the release of a number of Islamists imprisoned in Algeria and Tunisia in exchange for the Austrians’ freedom.
But the deadline was extended at the last minute until March 23, amid reports that talks were switching focus to a possible ransom.
I always considered the call for a release of prisoners to be a feint. It was obviously a loss-leader designed to raise the minimum bid for the final payoff.
Expect the deadline to be postponed repeatedly until Al Qaeda gets the required jackpot while allowing the Austrian government to pay up in a face-saving manner. Perhaps Vienna will agree to fund an “Islamic cultural center” in Ouargla. Or maybe they’ll endow a “scholarship fund” for indigent students at a madrassa in Taoudenni — to be announced coincidentally just a day before the miraculous release of the hostages into the custody of Saif Qadhafi.
And, of course, there’s always debt relief. The Bulgarians managed to pay off Kadhafi Senior so that their nurses would be released, but in a manner that permitted a pretense that there was no deal. Expect something similar to happen with the Austrian tourists.
No matter how you spell it, though, ransom is ransom.