South African kidnapped by al Qaeda set free after six years

Stephen McGowan
Stephen McGowan

A South African tourist who was kidnapped in 2011 by al Qaeda while travelling in Mali has been released and is back home, foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said on Thursday.

Stephen McGowan was one of four foreigners touring Mali on motorbikes, who were seized in a restaurant in the town of Timbuktu. One, a German, was killed in the kidnapping. French special forces freed a Dutch hostage in 2015 in a raid and a Swede was released in June this year. The kidnappers had demanded $5 million for his release, but the government rejected it, Swedish Radio said.

“We would like to warmly welcome him back home and wish him good health, good fortune in his life as a free man,” said South African foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, adding that no ransom had been paid. McGowan is undergoing medical tests, but had no major injuries, Nkoana-Mashabane said. McGowan’s mother died in May, but other close family members expressed their joy at his return.

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