SA photojournalist in Syria taken over 'misunderstanding'

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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 - Kidnapped South African photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed was taken over a misunderstanding.

That is according to Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman, whose relief organisation has been working in war-torn Syria where Mohamed was abducted on Tuesday.

"There has been no demand. Even when they took him they didn’t say 'we are taking him for ransom or money'. They are taking him for a misunderstanding. What’s the misunderstanding? I don’t know," Sooliman told eNCA.

READ: SA journalist kidnapped in Syria

Mohamed was taken while travelling to the Turkish border, along with two members of Gift of the Givers, who were earlier released.

Sooliman believes the kidnappers might have been suspicious because Mohamed was a foreigner.

An expert in the field said Mohamed's captors might pawn him off to interested parties.

“What tends to happen is that your smugglers, your kidnappers, kidnap these people and then sell them over to groups interested, for financial gain ...," said terrorism researcher Jasmine Opperman.

"The question now is what do they intend to do, because the intent is to make money. So are we going to see a situation where he is going to be sold to a group that will prolong negotiations for release quite drastically?" she said

Sooliman is a bit more optimistic about Mohamed's chances.

“Like in the other situations we have been in, we’ve got leverage. And all people all over Syrian know what we’ve done and it would be foolish for anyone to try and harm him knowing what we’ve done there. It will cause an uproar in the community ... there is no ISIS in the area where we are so that takes out 50 to 60 percent of the headache. But at the end of the day we still don’t know what they want," Sooliman said.

Mohamed, who has been in Syria since 4 January, previously travelled to 12 different countries in relentless pursuit of the kind of images that have been featured in media around the globe.

His family said this passion has often landed him in life-threatening situations. They are praying for his safe release.  

The International Relations Department said it was aware of the abduction and would assist the Gift of the Givers where possible.