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AQIM Releases South African Hostage Stephen McGown After Almost 6 Years; $4.2 Million Ransom Paid

In Al-Qaeda, AQIM, Archive, Mali, South Africa, Terrorism on August 3, 2017 at 10:56 AM

08/03/2017

NYTimes:

A South African tourist who was abducted nearly six years ago from an inn in Timbuktu, Mali, by the North African branch of Al Qaeda has been freed, officials said on Thursday.

The tourist, Stephen Malcolm McGown, 42, was the last of the “Timbuktu Three,” who were abducted on Nov. 25, 2011, to be released: A Dutch citizen was rescued in a French commando raid in 2015, and a Swedish man was released in June.

 

Militants released a video showing six captives, including Mr. McGown, last month, before a visit to Mali by President Emmanuel Macron of France. Mr. McGown also holds a British passport.

Mr. McGown’s lengthy captivity had become a cause célèbre in South Africa, but his freedom came at a price: A retired European intelligence official said on Thursday that 3.5 million euros (about $4.2 million) had been paid.

The retired official, who requested anonymity to discuss sensitive information, said that the payment was negotiated through an intermediary, Gift of the Givers Foundation, a South African charity that had campaigned for Mr. McGown’s release, and that it was paid by an undercover agent working for French security services in the Adrar des Iforas mountains, a massif in the deserts of northern Mali where Qaeda militants have held hostages.

“It was an operation managed by France and South African intelligence through an intermediary,” the former official said.

 

South Africa’s foreign minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who announced Mr. McGown’s release at a news conference in Pretoria on Thursday, responded vaguely when a reporter asked her whether a ransom had been paid.

“The South African government does not subscribe to payment of ransoms,” she said. “That’s why I focused on the work we have been doing in the past six years: campaigning, engaging with governments, and with the captors the way we know how. That’s what we have been doing. And that’s what we can confirm.”

Ms. Nkoana-Mashabane, the foreign minister, declined on Thursday to discuss the condition of Mr. McGown, now back in South Africa. “Is he receiving the necessary support — the requisite for any South African citizen who had gone through this very, very painful experience? The answer is yes,” she said.

A New York Times tally of ransoms collected by Al Qaeda’s affiliates conducted in 2014 found that the group had taken in at least $125 million, with $66 million paid just in 2013.

Unlike the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, Al Qaeda has tended to see hostages as a product that it can monetize. Only a minority of its hostages have died while in custody, unlike those of the Islamic State, which both ransoms and regularly kills captives.

  1. […] Fonte: AQIM Releases South African Hostage Stephen McGown After Almost 6 Years; $4.2 Million Ransom Paid | … […]

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  2. […] UPDATE 08/03/2017: AQIM Releases South African Hostage Stephen McGown After Almost 6 Years; $4.2 Million Ransom Paid […]

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