SOMALI — American journalist Michael Scott Moore, held for more than two years by Somali pirates, has been freed, Moore’s family and a Somali official told CNN on Tuesday.
“We are just elated,” Marlis Saunders, Moore’s mother, said in a brief conversation. “It took a lot of work for us to get this point. And to hear he is free — just joyful, I can’t describe it.”
“All this is just so new,” said Saunders, who lives in Redondo Beach, California. “I did not have much time to talk with him. We just have a lot of things to do and I cannot talk anymore. We need a little time to evaluate all this.”
The governor of Somalia’s Mudug region, Ahmed Muse, told CNN that local elders negotiated Moore’s release, adding that the journalist is “physically and mentally” worn out.
Moore boarded a plane at an airport in Galkayo, in the north-central part of Somalia, Muse said.
Muse would not say where the journalist is headed.
“I’m absolutely thrilled,” said Michel Todd, who was Moore’s web editor at Pacific Standard magazine. “It’s like seeing somebody come back from the dead. It’s a marvelous resurrection.”
Todd said Moore was a weekly freelance columnist who wrote often about Somalia. He had been researching Somali pirates.
“As a news organization, we wanted to write about his capture,” Todd said. “But we had been encouraged by the FBI and State Department to (not) write about it because this would hurt his cause. They said, if you really care about the guy, that is not a good idea, raising his profile would make his release more difficult.”
Todd said Moore’s stories suggested that illegal European fishing was driving Somalis into piracy.
“Of all the people for the pirates to nab,” he said. “He wasn’t necessarily a spokesman, but he was someone who was more amenable to getting (the pirates’) point across. I’m not saying he was pro-pirate, but he was pro-truth and that seemed like something that might have been helpful to Somalis.”
Maria Streshinsky, editor of Pacific Standard, said, “We are thrilled, but it has been really far too long. It’s been such a worrisome situation. We are just elated. We may have a toast and a beer in his honor. I hope he is healthy.”
Pacific Standard is a publication of the Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media and Public Policy, a California-based nonprofit. PSmag.com claims to reach nearly one million readers each month with research-based articles about the social sciences,
Moore’s mother declined to comment when asked if a ransom was paid for her son.
Muse said he did not know if a ransom was paid.
In lawless Somalia, it’s common — particularly among pirates — that people are kidnapped and their freedom negotiated for ransom. The pirates operate in the Gulf of Aden, one of the globe’s most trafficked shipping waterways.
The U.S. State Department confirmed in January 2012 that officials had spoken with Moore’s family and been in touch with contacts in Kenya and Somalia to get more information.
The department noted at the time that a travel warning for Somalia cautioned U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to the country and recommended avoiding it.