S.African hostage in Syria still alive after two years: Charity

AFP , Sunday 28 Apr 2019

A South African charity said Sunday it had received video evidence that a freelance photographer kidnapped in Syria was alive, over two years after he was captured.

Shiraaz Mahomed was kidnapped on January 10, 2017, travelling to the Turkish border from a hospital supported by the Gift of the Givers charity in the Syrian town of Darkouch, 100 kilometres (60 miles) west of Aleppo.

"It has taken two years and three months but finally, Gift of the Givers has received proof of life for journalist Shiraaz Mahomed, who was abducted on 10 January 2017 in the vicinity of Gift of the Givers Ar Rahma Hospital in Darkoush, Syria," said the charity's head Imtiaz Sooliman in a message broadcast on social networks.

The first evidence that Mahomed was alive came in January 2018 in the form of answers to ten questions only he could answer while the latest video arrived by WhatsApp on Friday, he said.

In the video clip of around 30 seconds Mohamed is seen speaking in front of an armed man on April 13.

"The video presents significant information," Sooliman added.

Many foreign journalists have been kidnapped since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, often by the self-described Islamic State group.

South African hostage Stephen McGown, who was held by Al-Qaeda in Mali for nearly six years, was released in August after negotiations led by Gift of the Givers.

The South African government insisted that no ransom was paid to secure McGown's release.

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