NEWS

South African Photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed Kidnapped In Syria

Armed men took Johannesburg journalist Shiraaz Mohamed to an unknown place.

14/01/2017 14:15 SAST | Updated 14/01/2017 14:22 SAST
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Shiraaz Mohamed, along with two Gift of the Givers members, had been on his way to the Turkish border to exit Syria.

A South African photojournalist was kidnapped in Syria earlier this week and has still not been heard from, the disaster relief organisation Gift of the Givers said on Saturday.

Founder Imtiaz Sooliman said armed men took Johannesburg journalist Shiraaz Mohamed to an unknown place after stopping their convoy on Aljamiliye Road on Tuesday afternoon.

Mohamed, along with two organisation members, had been on his way to the Turkish border to exit Syria.

"They took the road they normally take when transporting patients by ambulance," said Sooliman.

"It's a relatively safe route. There's never been an incident here in all these years."

They stopped at a point and were asked about Mohamed's nationality, passport and religion.

When they set off again and passed the Gift of the Givers Al Hilal Hospital, two cars boxed their vehicle in.

The driver hooted at the two cars to move out of the way.

"A few men with guns got off, were very calm and came to the car. They opened the doors, put a gun to the head of our two people and looked at Shiraaz," said Sooliman.

The team told the men not to take Mohamed as it could harm support for the hospital.

"They replied that they think that there is some misunderstanding and that they need to question him and will return him in two days."

It was not clear what the misunderstanding was.

Blindfolded

The three were blindfolded and driven around for an hour. They confiscated one of the team members' phones after it started ringing.

They later released the members and returned the cellphone.

"When our two asked who they were, they said they represented all groups inside Syria."

The armed men apparently disclosed to them the precise location where they were dropped off.

They said they would return Mohamed to the Ar Rahma hospital in two days after questioning him.

The group failed to return him on Thursday.

Sooliman said he would inform the international relations and co-operation department later on Saturday morning.

Mohamed had been capturing scenes of the Syrian civil war, including the lives of adult and child survivors.

In a letter to journalist Maryke Vermaak, his family expressed the devastation at his disappearance.

"The 'not knowing' is the hardest part...We are also thankful to his fellow colleagues in the media industry who have been rallying to assist with updates through contacts in Syria. We are praying for his safety and immediate release," they wrote.-- News24