‘Chances of survival when kidnapped by Al-Qaeda much higher than other groups’

The NGO’s Imtiaz Sooliman says research has shown that people taken hostage by the Al-Qaeda group are usually cared for.

FILE: Swede Johan Gustafsson (L), South African Stephen McGowan (C) and Dutch national Sjaak Rijke (R) held captive by al-Qaeda. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG – Gift of the Givers says the chances of survival when an individual is kidnapped by the al-Qaeda terrorist group is much higher than with any other group.

The NGO’s Imtiaz Sooliman was speaking on the sidelines of a briefing Stephen McGowan was supposed to attend.

He was unable to make it on doctor's orders.

McGowan was kidnapped six years ago in Mali by al-Qaeda and was released this week.

Sooliman says research has shown that people taken hostage by the al-Qaeda group are usually cared for.

He says many have come out alive.

“One of the survivors came to visit me this year and he said they were very well taken care of. He said actually he was at a far better place than at home.”

He says when held captive by al-Qaeda many are not threatened or abused.

“They never put fear in you, they look after you very nicely. So if you’re there, the chances of being killed is illness or fights between the tribes.”

Sooliman says the decision will be made with the family and the doctor about when the briefing can be rescheduled.

FIRST PUBLIC APPEARANCE POSTPONED

Gift of The Givers says McGowan’s first public appearance has been postponed on doctor's orders.

Gift of The Givers says they had been assured by his family that McGowan would make it to a briefing on Friday afternoon. But at the last minute, he was advised against it by his doctor.

Sooliman says while they can’t give details on his condition, he was advised against doing a briefing.

He says another briefing will be scheduled for next week.

“On Friday morning, they said he was fine to attend the briefing and now they’ve informed us that several results have come back and they’re not too happy.”

He says McGowan’s wife has advised that he’s still in the hospital.

“When his wife called me she was on her way to the hospital and she said Stephen wanted to meet me. I told her there’s no rush because he’s in the hospital, we can wait.”

Sooliman says it was a sad moment when McGowan was told his mother had died during his absence.

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)