Hunt for miss­ing news­man boosted by Syrian protest

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - MASEGO PANYANE

THE fam­ily of kid­napped South African pho­to­jour­nal­ist Shi­raaz Mo­hamed are re­main­ing hope­ful as they head into the first week since his cap­ture by uniden­ti­fied armed men in Syria.

His ex-wife Shirley Bri­jlal said they were kept hope­ful by the new in­for­ma­tion they re­ceived, par­tic­u­larly that a protest in the streets of Syria de­mand­ing his re­lease took place on Sun­day.

“I must say the protest in Syria is keep­ing us hope­ful. Hav­ing the peo­ple re­alise what’s hap­pen­ing means they’re wak­ing up to the sit­u­a­tion, mak­ing the chances of in­for­ma­tion get­ting out about Shi­raaz bet­ter,” Bri­jlal said.

The in­volve­ment of the South African gov­ern­ment through the De­part­ment of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions and Co-op­er­a­tion was also promis­ing, she said.

Mean­while, Gift of the Givers chief ex­ec­u­tive Im­tiaz Sooli­man said the char­ity had se­cured a meet­ing with Turkey’s gov­er­nor, who said the coun­try would as­sist in help­ing to lo­cate Mo­hamed.

The armed group crossed the Turk­ish border to en­ter Syria.

“We spoke to the Turk­ish gov­er­nor, who has in­flu­ence in the area, and they have said they will give us any as­sis­tance pos­si­ble to track down Shi­raaz. They have peo­ple on the ground in parts of Syria and they will as­sist us in track­ing him down,” Sooli­man said.

He added that while they were wor­ried that af­ter six days no group had come for­ward to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for the kid­nap­ping or make de­mands, the protest ac­tion in the streets of Syria by or­di­nary com­mu­nity mem­bers gave them hope.

“The peo­ple are hold­ing protests in Syria with large pic­tures of Shi­raaz and they’re say­ing they want him re­leased. This is also spread­ing in­for­ma­tion in the com­mu­nity so it gives us hope,” Sooli­man said.

Even though the sit­u­a­tion in Syria was volatile, the Gift of the Givers’ ex­pe­ri­ence of work­ing in the re­gion meant they stood a bet­ter chance of lo­cat­ing him and con­tin­u­ing with re­lief ef­forts.

“We’ve been in Syria for four years. Be­cause of the cease­fire this is the most quiet it has been since we started work­ing in the re­gion. So while other peo­ple view the area as volatile, we know how to work in it,” Sooli­man said. “We are work­ing with the De­part­ment of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions and Co-op­er­a­tion and also us­ing our own pro­cesses to find Shi­raaz.” Sooli­man said.

PIC­TURE: AP

MISS­ING: South African pho­to­jour­nal­ist Shi­raaz Mo­hamed when he was still in Joburg.

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