Killed by the Taliban
By Claude Adams
February 4, 2009. At his home in West Vancouver, Glen Cooper is fast sleep. The phone rings. “Hello?” It’s a bad connection from the other side of the world. “Hello?” It takes a few seconds, but then Cooper hears the broken English, the sharp hectoring voice. “Damn it,” he snarls, “it’s the middle of the night”—but the caller has launched into the familiar harangue: Where’s the money? Time is running out. Any news about prisoner releases from Guantánamo Bay? And, as always, the implicit threat: We have her…
“Her” is Beverley Giesbrecht, Cooper’s closest friend. If she herself were on the line, he would speak gently. But this is a Taliban goon who assumes Cooper can wave a magic wand. Cooper has heard it all before, the whole sick routine, but now it’s late and he’s hungover and mad. He slams the phone. A minute later it rings again. Now Cooper’s in a rage. He swears, crashes the receiver down, rips the cord out of the wall. For a few moments, he feels better.
Of course, in a day or two they call again. This time Cooper sticks to the talking points drafted by the RCMP task force handling the case: 1. She’s a devout Muslim. 2. She’s a friend of the Taliban. 3. Her journalism is making a difference in the West’s understanding of the jihadist insurgency. At all times, Cooper’s been told, refer to Bev by her Muslim name: Khadija Abdul Qahaar. Promise nothing, keep the lines of communication open, don’t talk politics, deflect any questions about a ransom. Maybe they’ll come to their senses, see that this poor, sick woman is more useful to them free than captive.
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