Al-Qaeda-linked group to help find abducted photographer

2017-01-15 20:15
Gift of the Givers staff and others at the organisation's Syria hospital hold up messages of support for missing photographer Shiraaz Mohamed. (Photo supplied by Gift of the Givers)

Gift of the Givers staff and others at the organisation's Syria hospital hold up messages of support for missing photographer Shiraaz Mohamed. (Photo supplied by Gift of the Givers)

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Cape Town - Al-Qaeda-linked group An Nusra has offered to help in the search for South African photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed, who was apparently kidnapped by armed men as he was leaving Syria.

That's according to South African-based aid organisation, Gift of the Givers. 

"The An Nusra people said they have an interest in the case and will assist in the search for Shiraaz," Gift of the Givers CEO Imtiaz Sooliman said on Sunday, as concerns mount over the safety of the missing lensman.

Mohamed was on his way out of northern Syria and headed for the Turkish border on Tuesday, 10 January, when two cars boxed him, and two Gift of the Givers workers, in as they drove past the Al Hilal Hospital in Aljamiliye Road.

The Gift of the Givers driver hooted at them to move, but instead armed men got out of the cars and put a gun to the heads of two Gift of the Givers workers, and looked at Mohamed.

They said there seemed to be a "misunderstanding" and that they needed to question him about it. 

They drove away with the three, blindfolded, and when they eventually stopped, asked questions.
They asked if Mohamed was a foreigner, had a passport, and a Muslim, which the captives confirmed.

They also asked if they knew about a Turkish delegation that entered Syria earlier that day, which they did not know anything about, as well as about a Dr Ahmad who works at the hospital.

The two workers were released and a confiscated cellphone was returned.

In a further development, Sooliman texted on Sunday that Dr Ahmad Ghandour was summoned to the Investigation Department of An Nusra (now Fath Al Sham), which he described as a former Al Qaeda affiliate, to answer questions about Mohamed. 

He met two uniformed men with their faces covered and they blindfolded Ghandour too and took him away for questioning on the mysterious "misunderstanding" that was referred to by the men who took Mohamed.

Aleppo trip stopped due to safety concerns

They wanted to know if he and Mohamed had disagreed on something, but he said the opposite was true.

Mohamed had been sleeping and eating at Ghandour’s house, he had taken him around for photographs, and was going to fulfil Mohamed's request to be taken to Aleppo.

Sooliman said the Aleppo trip was stopped by Gift of the Givers due to safety concerns.

Ghandour conveyed a message that Gift of the Givers was upset about the capture because they had been doing humanitarian work worth R150m for Syrians for four years with 200 staffers.

"This was [predominantly] South African support and it was an insult to us that a South African was captured. This South African had come to record the hardship of the Syrian people to garner more international support," relayed Sooliman.

As a show of support for Mahomed, businesses in Darkoush closed their shops and medical staff did the same at Gift of the Givers' Ar Rahma Hospital. 

According to Jacaranda FM, Mohamed's former wife Shirley Brijlal said the last time she heard from him was when he was on the way to the Turkish border. 

"My last communication with him was at on Tuesday at 15:17 whilst on his way to the Turkish border. Earlier, at 12:48 he indicated that he should be at the border by 15:00 and that if I did not hear from him by 18:30 I was to contact Ahmed Bham. An hour later he said that I should wait until 20:00 to call Bham," Jacaranda FM quoted her as saying.
Read more on:    gift of the givers  |  shiraaz mohamed  |  syria  |  syria conflict

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