Swede's release gives hope to family of South African held in Mali

Al-Qaeda militants kidnapped McGowan, Gustafsson and a friend while they were sitting in a restaurant in Timbuktu in 2011.

A screengrab from the latest video of South African Stephen McGowan who is being held hostage in Mali. Picture: Supplied

JOHANNESBURG - Gift of the Givers says it's awaiting information from their Mali contact to give possible clarity on the future of South African Stephen McGowan, following the release of Swedish national Johan Gustafsson.

Sweden's foreign ministry announced Gustafsson's release this afternoon but said nothing of the fate of McGowan.

Al-Qaeda militants kidnapped the two, along with a friend, while they were sitting in a restaurant in Timbuktu in 2011.

The friend was later freed by French troops.

The Swedish government has confirmed that Gustafsson has definitely been set free but hasn't given more details.

The news has sparked hope for Gift of the Givers which has been negotiating McGowan's release.

The organisation’s Imtiaz Sooliman says he has been in contact with their Mali intermediary and Gustafsson's sister to obtain information on McGowan.

“We have tried contacting the intermediary in Mali about Stephen’s case, we couldn’t get through to him, he just said ‘I can hear you but the network is not good, I’ll try calling you later’. And then right now we just got a message from McGowan’s sister to say that she’s with her brother Johan now and it's very busy right now in Sweden but later on she’ll call us.”

Sooliman says al-Qaeda has demanded millions of rands in exchange for McGowan.

(Edited by Zinhle Nkosi)