An Indian-origin South African photojournalist, who was captured in war-torn Syria a year ago, may be alive as negotiators have provided the 'proof of life' to his family here, an organisation has said.
Shiraaz Mahomed disappeared without a trace after being captured on January 10, 2017, while reporting on the relief work of internationally-acclaimed South African charitable group 'Gift of the Givers'.
He was on his way back to the Turkish border to return home when he was captured in Syria along with two drivers who were immediately released.
"The two (drivers) were told that Mahomed was being held for questioning to clear a misunderstanding and would be returned to the Ar Rahma Hospital in Darkoush (Syrian town) within 48 hours, but this didn't happen," said the group's founder Imtiaz Sooliman.
The hospital's head Ahmad Ghandour spearheaded a search operation for Shiraaz, risking his life, traversing areas of conflict and heavy bombing to meet various leaders of terror groups, engage with tribal leaders, medical personnel, journalists and prison guards, Sooliman said.
"Many chancers sought money with a guarantee of clue on Shiraaz. We ignored all that. On December 26 came a call: 'Don't talk to anyone but us, we are the door to Shiraaz'.
"We responded that everyone has said that already and the test of surety is a list of 10 questions that 'Gift of the Givers' has prepared in consultation with Shiraaz's family," Sooliman said.
The voice said "send the questions you will have the answers soon", he said.
"On January 2, the call came again: 'My man is in Syria, he has met Shiraaz, the questions have been answered, we await his return. On January 8, we received the message that Shiraaz gives 'salaams' (greetings) for his mother and family and to Gift of the Givers; he is very happy with the questions and wants to be released as soon as possible," Sooliman said.
Mahomed's family was ecstatic in confirming that all 10 questions were correctly answered and it could only have been correctly answered by him, he said.
"Shiraaz had come to record and broadcast the hardship of the Syrian people; he delivered food and blankets in refugee camps so he was an asset to the people; no demands were made; no ransom was sought; no allegations were levelled against him of being a spy or working with the enemy.
"Then why was he captured? Till now this question remains unanswered," Sooliman added.
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