Al-Qaeda Releases South African Hostage Held in Mali Since 2011

Stephen McGowan is the last of three friends to be released by al-Qaeda after they were abducted from Timbuktu, while touring Mali on motorbikes. Upon his return home, South Africa said no ransom was paid.

 

Stephen McGowan is the last of three friends to be released by al-Qaeda after they were abducted from Timbuktu, while touring Mali on motorbikes. Upon his return home, South Africa said no ransom was paid.

A South African who had been held hostage by al-Qaeda in Mali since 2011 has been released and is back home. South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane on Thursday confirmed Stephen McGowan was released on July 29.

He is undergoing medical checks but has “no major injuries,” she told a news conference.

“We would like to warmly welcome him back home and wish him good health, good fortune in his life as a free man. It is with sadness though, that his dear mother… passed on in May 2017 without seeing her son back home,” Nkoana-Mashabane said.

No ransom was paid to secure McGowan’s release, she added.

McGowan’s return home comes just over a month after the release of his Swedish friend Johan Gustafsson, who was abducted alongside the South African from a Timbuktu restaurant. The kidnappers had demanded $5 million dollars (4.2 million euros) for Gustafsson’s release but it was rejected by the government, the Swedish Radio said.

A third hostage, Sjaak Rijke of the Netherlands, was freed in 2015 in a raid by French special forces. During the initial kidnapping, a German man was shot when he refused to cooperate.

McGowan was last seen in a video that emerged a month ago. He appeared dejected, unsure if he would ever be released.

“It’s a long time to be away,” he said. “Until when do you think this will come to an end? Now we’re making a new video, but I don’t know what to say. It’s all been said in the past. It’s all been said in previous videos I’ve made.”Read more : What is al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) have been responsible for dozens of kidnappings of Westerners and scores of attacks on security forces across West Africa.

They began as a spin-off from an Islamist movement that fought Algeria’s government in the 1990s and now are active in Northern Mali.

 

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