Durban – Gift of the Givers on Saturday said the captors of photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed had requested a negotiable $1.5m ransom to secure his release.
The humanitarian aid organisation has been in contact with the captors since they released a ‘proof of life’ video at the end of April.
Mohamed went missing about two years ago when he was reportedly part of a Gift of the Givers entourage to Syria. He had been documenting the aid organisations relief efforts at one of the middle eastern country’s biggest hospitals.
The Johannesburg photojournalist was reportedly captured with a driver as they drove towards the Syrian border. The driver was released, while Mohamed was held.
Gift of the Givers founder, Imtiaz Sooliman, saif they had informed the captors that the South African government, Gift of the Givers or the Mohamed family would not be able to pay the requested $1.5m ransom.
However, Sooliman said fears were especially heightened as there was increased bombing in the region.
“The demand for Shiraaz’s release is $1.5m. We made it clear that this was not possible. We stated that Shiraaz’s family does not have the means, nor is Shiraaz the employee of a large corporate company that could assist with payment and the SA government will not pay. They said they giving us time to consider options,” he said.
Sooliman said they told the captors in a subsequent conversation that the ransom amount was ‘too high’.
“They said it was negotiable. They called again on Thursday evening, they seemed anxious and said they need to conclude this deal urgently. The Russians were bombing South Idlib and North Hama very aggressively and they are afraid that Shiraaz could be killed in the bombing.
“We went to Shiraaz’s family today to explain this new development and possible consequences. This is exactly what Shiraaz was afraid of in the video where he makes a plea for assistance to secure his release,” said Sooliman.
Sooliman said officials at the Gift of the Givers Ar Rahma Hospital had confirmed the increased bombing in the region and that they had been requested to be on standby for injured patients.
“We have received the first two patients yesterday (Friday). We are currently engaging with religious leaders to provide letters requesting the unconditional release of Shiraaz immediately, to prevent a tragedy.
“We lost Pierre Korkie on the day that his release was secured, Stephen McGown’s mother passed on one month before Stephen was released and we certainly don’t want to live through another such incident,” said Sooliman.