Al-Jazeera online exec axed for reasons unknown

Yvonne Ridley, the former Daily Express journalist and veteran Fleet Streeter who was captured by the Taliban and subsequently converted to Islam, has been fired as editor of Al-Jazeera.net, the English-lingo Web site of the Qatar-based news service.

Ridley, who completed just four months of a two-year contract, says she’s perplexed by the Nov. 13 dismissal. Her lawyer, Katrina Wilson, says Ridley received no official warnings and the news came “totally out of the blue.”

But rumors abound that she was fired as a result of her drive to get the Web site’s 21 online journos signed to the National Union of Journalists.

The dismissal is the latest twist in a bizarre saga that begin in September 2001, when Ridley was seized by the Taliban in Afghanistan on suspicion of spying.She begged her captors to release her and promised to read the Koran if they showed her mercy. After 10 days the Taliban let her go, and she stayed true to her promise.

She converted to Islam June 30 and has settled permanently in Doha, Qatar.

Her new book “Ticket to Paradise,” soon to be published by Dandelion Books, promises to cause more controversy. A work of fiction, it chronicles a female journalist’s efforts to unearth the truth in post-9/11 Middle East. Ridley hopes some Fleet Street vets “will be too embarrassed to sue” when they realize characters are based on them.

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