Following weeks of silence on the whereabouts of Shiraaz Mohamed, new reports reveal that the South African photojournalist is alive. This follows an investigation by a local NGO called Truth Collective South Africa in collaboration with the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Nomaindiya Mfeketo, and the Syrian government.
The NGO confirmed that it has made inroads with the Jabhat al-Nusra rebel group, who reportedly abducted Mohamed in January this year. The group has provided photos and video footage as proof of life.
Mohamed, who travelled to the besieged territory with the Gift of the Givers Foundation (GoTG), was reportedly abducted while enroute to the Turkish border with GOTG personnel, who were later released.
The GOTG delegation reported that the rebel group, who allegedly kidnapped Mohamed, had said they represented a number of groups in the region. In a turn of events, following Mohamed’s disappearance, a GOTG doctor was summoned to the Investigation Department of Al-Nusra (now Fath Al Sham, an ex-Al Qaeda affiliate) to answer questions on Shiraaz Mahomed.
“He met two armed individuals in military uniform; their faces veiled, then was taken blindfolded to some area. He had to wait in isolation for one hour and was then questioned. They wanted to know what “misunderstanding” was being referred to by those who captured Shiraaz,” this according to a statement released by GoTG founder, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman.
While Truth Collective South Africa cites Al-Nusra as the abductees, GoTG previously reported that the group had stated that it would assist in locating Mohamed, maintaining that it an had interest in finding the photojournalist.
“The Al-Nusra people said they have an interest in the case and will assist in the search for Shiraaz,” Sooliman stated.
Director of Truth Collective South Africa, Bakar al-Maharmeh confirmed to EWN that Jabhat al-Nusra has demanded the release of four fighters, imprisoned by the Syrian government, in exchange for Mohamed.
“It’s like really hard for [the Syrian Government] to accept this offer. I’ve seen a video of those terrorists shown to me in Damascus, what they’ve done. [But the Syrian Government] said they’re willing to do [this] because South Africa was there when they needed them.”
According to Baker, the rebel group is refusing to work with GOTG and Turkish authorities.
“Some people on the side of Turkey who brought Shiraaz to Syria, they’re trying to get him to the side of Turkey, which is why the rebels aren’t interested to give him over to that side because they want their friends to be out. So they’re willing to deal with the Syrian government better than the Turkish side,” Baker stated in an interview with EWN.
He added that he will return to the territory next month to secure Mohamed’s release and bring him home.