Family of SA hostage in Mali wants him out 'as quickly as possible'

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Stephen McGown (Gift of the Givers, YouTube)
Stephen McGown (Gift of the Givers, YouTube)

Johannesburg - The family of Stephen McGown, a South African who has been held hostage in Mali for five-and-a-half years, hopes that government will negotiate his release soon following a new proof-of-life video released by AQIM (al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), an Islamist militant organisation.

"I know it's a combined effort from government and Imtiaz Sooliman (Gift of the Givers chair); I hope they get Stephen out as quickly as possible," Malcolm McGown, his father, told News24 on Monday.

McGown was abducted in November 2011 at a hostel in Timbuktu together with recently released Swedish national Johan Gustaffsson.

Malcom McGown said he spoke, via Skype, to Gustafsson who was released last week.

"Johan Gustaffsson said they were well looked after. He looked well," said McGown.

READ: Mother of SA hostage in Mali dies without reunion

Demands

He said, however, he was worried because his son was now on his own.

"Obviously now that Stephen is on his own; it's a lot more pressure there I think. They were sort of support to each other when the two of them were there at the same time," he said.

He confirmed that he saw the 16.50 minute long video with no sound, where McGown appears with five other hostages.

The other five are Elliot Kenneth Arthur of Australia, Iulian Ghergut of Romania, Beatrice Stockly of Switzerland, Gloria Cecilia Narvaez of Colombia and Sophie Petronin of France, Sooliman said.

"The video addresses the six governments, but no demands are made. All six hostages have a chance to speak," he said.

McGown appears in the third minute of the video. He is the first hostage to make an appearance.

Before each hostage appears, their country's flags and citizenship appear.

"Gustafsson confirmed telephonically that Stephen McGown was alive and well at the time that he was freed last week. We will be communicating with him for more detailed information soon," he said.

His mother, Beverly McGown, died in May this year.

She had been ill for many years but deteriorated the last few months, Sooliman said.

She died from anxiety over Stephen's fate and her longing to see him, he added.

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