23 January 2017

South Africa: We Believe Shiraaz Mohamed Is Still Alive - Gift of the Givers

The Gift of the Givers Foundation on Monday said that they had established through their networks that South African photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed was still alive, but still had no proof of life.

The disaster relief organisation's founder, Imtiaz Sooliman said they had received excellent co-operation through "connected" people who, through their own individual research and "networks", had confirmed that Shiraaz was alive, but they were still waiting for proof of life.

"They confirm the group that is holding him; they know the location where Shiraaz is held. From all our interactions with the different people, including a high profile Syrian journalist, it appears that their information is credible," Sooliman said.

He added that a task team had been established to deal with the issue very strategically.

A hostage negotiator, Anas al Hamati, from Yemen, who is Arab and understands the culture and language, was an integral part of that team.

The Johannesburg-based journalist was kidnapped 13 days ago.

His family and the Gift of the Givers Foundation have been working tirelessly to secure his safe return.

Family, friends and fellow photographers gathered at the Lenasia South Civic Centre last week to amplify pleas for him to be released.

Several religious denominations prayed for Mohamed and his family.

Sooliman said armed men took Mohamed to an unknown location after stopping their convoy on Aljamiliye Road, which is near the Al Hilal Hospital.

'Decisive plan'

Mohamed and two organisation members were en route to the Turkish border to leave Syria.

Sooliman said the men told the Gift of the Givers staff that there had been "some misunderstanding", that they needed to question Mohamed, and would bring him back two days later.

The men identified themselves as representing "all groups inside Syria".

The Gift of the Givers officials and Mohamed were blindfolded and driven around for an hour. The two staff members were dropped off. Mohamed has not been heard from since.

Mohamed had been capturing scenes of the Syrian civil war, including the lives of adult and child survivors.

Sooliman said they were expecting more information in the next 48 hours.

"We have a very decisive plan and will use it as leverage if the need arises. But for now, we want to diplomatically and amicably resolve the issue as no one really understands why Shiraaz was taken. It may be a case of mistaken identity, so we are allowing a little more time for the processes to unfold in the best interests of Shiraaz."

He said they were in possession of Shiraaz's belongings, his laptop and camera.

Source: News24

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