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Finnish hostages reveal New Zealand link to Al Qaeda

Finnish couple Atte and Leila Kavela were snatched off a street in Yemen in 2012 and traded to Al Qaeda.

They would spend the next four-and-half-months in captivity, closely-guarded at all times by masked gunmen. 

Atte and Leila Kavela were snatched off a street in Yemen in 2012 and held captive by Al Qaeda gunmen – including Christopher Havard. Source: Sunday

One of their captors spoke English to them with what they thought was a New Zealand or Australian accent, and one day they glimpsed his European colouring and reddish hair.

They didn’t know it then but their kidnapper was Christopher Havard, who’d left New Zealand earlier that year to join Al Qaeda.

"You’re afraid for your life so that’s a very scary situation,"  says Leila Kavela.

But they were occasionally shown kindness by the red-haired jihadi.  He once made them porridge, a traditional Finnish breakfast.

"I’m not a fan of oatmeal porridge" says Atte, a former Finnish military officer. "Of course I ate it... it was a way of trying to build a relationship with the captors."

Cunningly, Atte and Leila procured a sample of their kidnapper’s hair – which later, through DNA testing, enabled authorities to confirm the identity of Christopher Havard, formerly an Invercargill freezing worker.


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