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Net bride Aussie kidnapped in Mali

Lovestruck farmer's fiancée actually armed gang

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An Australian farmer who thought he'd found his perfect soulmate online got a nasty surprise when he travelled to Mali to meet his fiancée - a reception committee of "machete-armed bandits" who held him for almost two weeks demanding an AU$100,000 ransom.

Des Gregor, 56, flew last month to the impoverished African nation's capital Bamako in search of "Natacha" and a dowry of AU$100,000 in gold bars, Reuters reports. However, he was picked up at the airport by a carload of ne'er-do-wells who whisked him to an apartment full of armed men.

The kidnappers gave Gregor "a good belting" and threatened to chop off his arms and legs unless his family coughed the aforementioned ransom. He recounted: "I was tied, bound by the legs, and that was only probably for a couple of days because they knew that I was going to cooperate. There was always one bloke sleeping at the door, there was no way out."

The gang's plan unravelled after 12 days when Oz and Mali police duped them into letting their hostage enter the Canadian embassy to collect the cash.

Suitably educated in the perils of online luuurv, Gregor warned other would-be web grooms: "Make sure you check everything out 100 per cent. I really hope that the message gets out to people that they look after their family and if anyone talks about internet relationships, that they can be open and share the mail with them to get an objective opinion."

Brother Des added: "You see this in a movie, you read about it in a book. It happens to someone else, not you. But it does." ®

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