Shiraaz Mohamed, a South African photojournalist who was abducted by unknown militants in Syria’s Idlib more than three years ago, has reportedly escaped his captors.
A South African non-governmental relief organization, known as Gift of the Givers, announced the news of Shiraaz’s alleged escape early on December 15.
In an official statement, the organization said that it was contacted by an unknown source in Idlib, who claimed that Shiraaz managed to escape his captors a while ago and was able to hide with “friendly people.”
The Syrian source sent Gift of Givers photos of Shiraaz, who appeared to be in good health, and told the organization that he was handed over to the Turkish intelligence.
“We now wait for the South African government to make contact with Turkish Intelligence to bring Shiraaz home as soon as practically possible,” Gift of Givers said in its statement.
Shiraaz, 41, was abducted by unknown militants on 10 January 2017 in the town of Darkoush. Last August, the captors released a video of the journalist, in which he warned that his life will be in grave danger if the captors’ demands were not met.
While Gift of Givers said that Shiraaz escaped his captors, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) and many opposition sources said that he was released by al-Qaeda-affiliated Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).
According to opposition sources, HTS abducted Shiraaz 3 years ago because it believed that he was spying for a “foreign intelligence” service. The terrorist groups reportedly kept the matter a secret the entire time.
The reports of Shiraaz escape or release have not been confirmed by South Africa, nor by Turkey. In the last few years, Ankara facilitated the release of several foreign captives from Idlib.