SA photojournalist in Syria is alive, says aid group

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Johannesburg, 14 January 2017 - Photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed has been kidnapped in Syria. Aid Organisation Gift of the Givers broke the news.

JOHANNESBURG - Photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed, abducted two weeks ago while travelling in war-torn Syria, is alive, aid group Gift of the Givers said on Monday.

Founder Imtiaz Sooliman said his organisation’s task team in Syria was working hard to find Mohamed.

"Connected" people had confirmed that he was alive "(just their word on this but no proof)"  and that the location where Shiraaz was being held was known, Sooliman said in a statement.

READ: SA journalist kidnapped in Syria

From the organisation’s interaction with different people, including a prominent Syrian journalist, it appeared that the information was credible, he said.

“We can’t independently verify it as yet but we are not ignoring it. In the next 48 hours we are expecting more information, so we wait patiently."

Sooliman said team members inside Syria and Turkey had been very active and the last three days had been particularly productive.

"Our limitation to make more detailed progress has been air strikes and internal discord between certain groups

"We have a very decisive plan and will use it as leverage if the need arises. But for now we want to diplomatically and amicably resolve the issue as no one really understands why Shiraaz was taken. It may be a case of mistaken identity so we are allowing a little more time for the processes to unfold in the best interests of Shiraaz.

“As an aside, we have Shiraaz’s belongings, his laptop and camera,” Sooliman said.

The journalist was abducted near a medical facility operated by Gift of the Givers. The kidnappers put guns to the heads of two aid workers who were with Mohamed and then blindfolded all three and drove with the captives for an hour.

The gunmen freed the two aid workers but said they would question Mohamed to clear up an unspecified “misunderstanding” and would release him at a Gift of the Givers facility after two days, according to Sooliman. There has been no communication from the kidnappers since.