'Our prayers have been heard' - family of Shiraaz Mohamed

SA photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed, who has been kidnapped in Syria. (Facebook)
SA photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed, who has been kidnapped in Syria. (Facebook)

Johannesburg – The family of kidnapped photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed says its prayers have been heard after receiving news that Mohamed might still be alive.

"The most terrifying thing was not knowing all this time. Our prayers have been heard, all praises to our creator. I salute the Gift of the Givers and their dedicated teams for their continued efforts," his ex-wife and friend Shirley Brijlal said in a statement on Monday.

Brijlal said there were times when her confidence wavered, but she fell back on prayer and faith.

"I am filled with gratitude and hope. He just needs to get home now, then all Shiraaz's loved ones will know for sure that the nightmare of the past two weeks is over."

This was after the Gift of the Givers foundation on Monday said it had established through its networks that South African photojournalist Mohamed was still alive. However, there was still no proof of life.

The disaster relief organisation's founder, Imtiaz Sooliman, said they had received excellent co-operation through people who, through their own individual research and networks, had confirmed that Mohamed was alive.

Task team established

"They confirm the group that is holding him; they know the location where Shiraaz is held. From all our interactions with the different people, including a high profile Syrian journalist, it appears that their information is credible," Sooliman said.

He added that a task team had been established to deal with the matter very strategically.

Anas al Hamati, a hostage negotiator from Yemen who is Arab and understands the culture and language, was an integral part of that team.

The Johannesburg-based journalist was kidnapped 13 days ago in Syria.

Sooliman said armed men took Mohamed to an unknown location after stopping their convoy on Aljamiliye Road, which is near the Al Hilal Hospital.

Mohamed and two organisation members were en route to the Turkish border on their way out of Syria.

'Phenomenal' support

Sooliman said the men had told the Gift of the Givers staff that there had been "some misunderstanding", that they needed to question Mohamed, and would bring him back two days later.

The men identified themselves as representing "all groups inside Syria".

The Gift of the Givers officials and Mohamed were blindfolded and driven around for an hour. At some point, the two staff members were let out of the car. Mohamed has not been heard from since.

Mohamed had been capturing scenes of the Syrian civil war, including the lives of adult and child survivors.

"We are also grateful to the Syrian people for their love and support. Everyone's support for Shiraaz has been phenomenal. This attention on the search is the one thing that will keep Shiraaz alive and bring him home safely," Brijlal said.

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