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Stephen McGowan details life as al-Qaeda captive

McGowan says not being able to contact his family, not having any books in English and not being able to exercise freely were some of his difficulties.

Stephen McGown (centre) makes his first public appearance since being released by al-Qaeda in Mali. Picture: Hitekani Magwedze/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Stephen McGowan has recalled how he and his fellow captives slept in shackles and shared one blanket.

The 42-year-old was captured along with two other foreign tourists by al-Qaeda linked militants at a restaurant in Mali in 2011.

Dutchman Sjaak Rijke was freed in 2015 while Swedish national Johan Gustaffson was released in June.

McGowan says that not being able to contact his family, not having any books in English and not being able to exercise freely were some of his difficulties.

He says despite the conditions, he had to keep mentally fit because he didn’t want to come home an angry person.

He says after he converted to Islam he received better treatment.

“Once converted, the guy wanted to wash your clothes by the river beds, even when you were a prisoner they would give you good meat… things changed dramatically.”

Prophet Lot - as is his new Islamic name - says he was not forced to convert from Christianity but simply chose to.

(Edited by Refilwe Pitjeng)