South African Photojournalist escapes from captivity in Syria

A South African photojournalist who was kidnapped in northern Syria three years ago has reportedly escaped from his captors, relief agency Gift of the Givers said Sunday.

‘‘Gift of the Givers received the encouraging news from unknown sources yesterday that Shiraaz Mohamed is free. The details are sketchy, but we were told that Shiraaz escaped from captivity and at some point was assisted by friendly people,’’ it said in a statement.

Gift of the Givers said anonymous sources who claimed to have helped Mohamed after he escaped handed him over to Turkish intelligence officials.

‘‘We now wait for the South African government to make contact with Turkish Intelligence to bring Shiraaz home as soon as possible,” the statement said.

The relief body also said an anonymous source who called them to confirm that Mohamed had escaped sent them two photos of the journalist to confirm he was free.

Mohamed looked emaciated in the photos as he sat next to a mattress on a floor in a room.

Gift of the Givers said they have informed Mohamed’s family and South Africa’s International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor about the news.

Mohamed was kidnapped in early 2017 while documenting the suffering of Syrian refugees in the town of Darkush. His captors were demanding $1.5 million in ransom.

In August this year, he made a desperate appeal to the South African government and the international community to help secure his release.

In the video, a masked gunman wearing a military uniform was seen walking into an underground prison where he finds Mohamed sleeping on the floor. Dressed in torn clothes, Mohamed is seen being blindfolded by the gunman and later handcuffed.

He is taken to another room where his blindfold is removed and the gunman starts shaving his beard.

The kidnappers are seen throwing an orange overall at Mohamed, which he catches and later wears. He kneels down and starts speaking in the video, which surfaced on social media.




Source: News Agency of Nigeria

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