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SA hostage in Mali pleads for govt to secure his freedom

Stephen McGowan and Swede Johan Gustafsson were abducted by al-Qaeda in Timbuktu in November 2011.

South African Stephen McGowan and Swede Johan Gustafsson (back) in a video released in June 2015.

JOHANNESBURG - A South African man who was captured by al-Qaeda in Mali nearly four years ago has appeared in a new video pleading with government to secure his freedom.

Stephen McGowan and Swede national Johan Gustafsson were abducted at a hotel in Timbuktu in November 2011 and have since been held in the Islamic Maghreb.

In the footage released by a Mauritanian news agency, the bearded pair can be seen wearing traditional robes sitting under a tree while being watched over by three masked men dressed in black.

McGowan delivered a message to South Africa.

"I hope that something can be done. I hope that a negotiation can be brokered and my release can be soon. I have a message for my family, I thank you all for everything that you've been doing to help."

McGowan's father said the family has had no contact with him since he was snatched.

Malcolm McGowan said, "Our first parcel got through to them but that was still when Amadou Toumani Touré (ATT) was president. ATT was in power before the coup."

Meanwhile, Red24's Ryan Cummings said it's very difficult to say if the video is authentic.

"It's very difficult to comment immediately on the veracity of the video, but it does seem that the footage was released by a media agency associated with the Jihadi Media Network within the Sahara."

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