Gift of the Givers (GOTG) are currently awaiting feedback from the Malian division of al-Qaeda over what demands will need to be met to secure the release of South African captive, Stephen McGown.
McGown has been held hostage in Mali alongside Swedish national, Johan Gustafsson since November 2011, but a breakthrough in the search for the duo finally came in November 2015 when the militant group officially made contact with GOTG. Since then the organisation has received confirmation, through a video received on the 1st December, that both captives are still alive, as well as that al-Qaeda are willing to negotiate their release.
GOTG founder and director, Dr. Imtiaz Sooliman said that prior to the video’s release the organisation had sought to stress to McGown’s captors, via an intermediary, that neither the South African nor Swedish governments would be willing to pay any monetary ransom.
“We said to make it clear to them that both families are not well off, they are very ordinary families and cannot pay even if they want to. Also, normally these people who are captured often work for big companies, but these two individuals do not work for any big companies so there is no support there,” he stated.
Sooliman revealed that further communication was made from the side of the captors on the 30th December, urging GOTG negotiators to fly out to Mali on January 3rd. The negotiators were then made to wait until the 11th before a messenger from the militant group finally met with them. GOTG subsequently handed over an appeal from the McGown and Gustafsson families urging the group to show leniency, and release both captives unconditionally.
“It was a very unusual kind of communication. The guy walked in, asked where the package is, took it and walked out. There was no dialogue, no other communication, he was just the messenger and he left,” he explained.
As of Wednesday GOTG’s representatives in Mali were still awaiting feedback from al-Qaeda.
“We don’t know what is going to happen but we have to follow the steps and see what comes next,” Sooliman added.
McGown and Gustafsson have been held captive in Mali for over four years. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)