Shi­raaz is alive, says Givers boss

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - MASEGO PANYANE

SHI­RAAZ Mo­hamed, the Joburg-based free­lance pho­to­jour­nal­ist who went miss­ing in Syria two weeks ago, is alive, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment is­sued by the Gift of the Givers Foun­da­tion yes­ter­day.

Mo­hamed, who was a vis­i­tor of the aid group, was ab­ducted out­side one of the char­ity’s hos­pi­tals.

Dr Imtiaz Sooli­man, the aid group’s chief ex­ec­u­tive, said they had man­aged, through the con­tacts of “in­flu­en­tial” peo­ple in the re­gion, to find out that Mo­hamed was alive, even though they did not have proof of life.

Ac­cord­ing to Sooli­man, a mem­ber of that team, Anas al-Ha­mati from Ye­men, will be the team’s hostage ne­go­tia­tor.

“Hav­ing pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence, be­ing an Arab (in ref­er­ence to al-Ha­mati) and un­der­stand­ing the cul­ture and lan­guage is an in­te­gral part of that team,” he said.

The past three days had been par­tic­u­larly for­tu­itous for the team, with their hav­ing un­cov­ered this in­for­ma­tion. There had, how­ever, been chal­lenges, Sooli­man said.

“Our lim­i­ta­tion to make more progress has been airstrikes and in­ter­nal dis­cord be­tween cer­tain groups,” he added.

Sooli­man said they now knew which group was hold­ing Mo­hamed and where he was be­ing held – even though there were still some dis­crep­an­cies in the in­tel­li­gence re­ceived.

They were hop­ing to re­ceive more in­for­ma­tion over the next 48 hours.

Sooli­man said the or­gan­i­sa­tion had a con­crete plan that would be used as lever­age if the need arose, once they were able to ver­ify this in­for­ma­tion.

Shirley Bri­jlal, Mo­hamed’s ex-wife, who re­mains a friend to the fam­ily, said they all were grate­ful there was new in­for­ma­tion on the jour­nal­ist’s where­abouts.

“Hear­ing this has been like get­ting the an­swer to our prayers. To know he’s alive and he’s there is a re­lief. We are very grate­ful to the me­dia and South Africans for the at­ten­tion Shi­raaz’s dis­ap­pear­ance has been get­ting.

“But we will all be happy when he fi­nally comes home,” she said.

HOPE: Shi­raaz Mo­hamed is be­ing held hostage in Syria.

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