Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Canadian aid worker used humour in ordeal

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BIG feet and a fortuitously placed wallet helped save a Canadian aid worker snatched at gunpoint at a Kenyan refugee camp and marched with three others across the border into Somalia, his parents said Tuesday.

Clearly relieved after days of frantic worry, Carol-Ann and Peter Dennis shared some of the humour that helped sustain their son Steve Dennis during his ordeal.

"He's tall, so he's got big feet," Carol-Ann said. "The trackers could track them because they could see the big foot and some little feet in the pattern of walking."

Aid workers Dennis, 37, of Toronto, fellow Canadian Qurat-Ul-Ain Sadazai, 38, of Gatineau, Que., Astrid Sehl, 33, of Norway, and Glenn Costes, 40, a Filipino, were taken from the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya near the Somalia border on Friday.

Their Kenyan driver was killed when four gunmen attacked.

A pro-government Somali militia rescued the aid workers Monday several kilometres inside Somalia in a mission that saw one of their captors killed.

Costes was shot during the initial kidnapping. Dennis was grazed by a bullet.

"In Steve's case, it happened to hit him right in his wallet that he carries in his front (leg) pocket -- it bruised him a little bit," his father said. "He said he was saved by his credit cards."

Dennis, who has worked with Doctors Without Borders, grabbed a first-aid kit and bound Costes' wounds, his parents said. The civil engineer also cut branches for walking poles -- his parents are instructors in Nordic pole walking -- and joked he planned to introduce the recreational exercise to the African continent.

Dennis told his parents the kidnappers treated them respectfully.

Rolf Vestvik, with the Norwegian Refugee Council that employs the aid workers, said from Oslo on Tuesday the four were spending the day resting.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 4, 2012 A9

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