JOHANNESBURG South Africa (Xinhua) --
South Africa’s disaster relief organization Gift of the Givers
said Wednesday it is still battling to secure freedom for their compatriots held
hostage by al-Qaeda militants in Timbuktu, Mali.
Yehia Dicko, negotiator of the organization, is
currently in Mali
and will meet the influential people on the Algerian border to negotiate the
release of Stephen McGown, who was taken hostage five years ago, and another
hostage Gustafsson, said Imtiaz Sooliman, founder, director and chairman of the
Gift of the Givers.
added that tribal, religious and spiritual leaders are now negotiating with
al-Qaeda for the release of the two. The rebels had asked the South African and
Swedish governments for 5 million euros (5.25 million U.S. dollars) each in
that the governments don’t talk to terrorists nor pay any ransoms,” he said.
have also demanded the release of the two in exchange of prisoners either from
Mali or Niger, which was also declined by the Gift of the Givers.
African organization has distributed food and water during the Islamic month of
Ramadaan, built boreholes and upgraded places of worship to encourage the rebels
to release the hostages.
“We pray that
by this Christmas we succeed in securing an unconditional release as we have run
out of options,” Sooliman said.
McGown, father of Stephen McGown, told Xinhua that they are hoping that the
government, the Gift of Givers and the international community could assist in
the release of his son.
five years has been very difficult to us as a family. We do not have the means
to pay the ransom money demanded by al-Qaeda.” he said.