Gift of the Givers 'not paying too much attention' to new video of abducted SA photographer

Another video has surfaced depicting photographer Shiraaz Mahomed begging to be rescued from his Syrian captors.
Another video has surfaced depicting photographer Shiraaz Mahomed begging to be rescued from his Syrian captors.
Image: Screengrab from YouTube video

Gift of the Givers said on Tuesday it is aware of a new video showing SA photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed pleading to be rescued from his captors.

Mohamed was captured in Syria more than two years ago. His plight was brought to the attention of President Cyril Ramaphosa by Mohamed's family, who camped outside the voting station where the president voted last week.

It is the second video of Mohamed to surface in recent weeks.

"It has been brought to the attention of Gift of the Givers that a second video on Shiraaz has been loaded on YouTube and is doing the rounds on social media," said the organisation's founder, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman.

"We checked with the individual who sent us the first video. He was very surprised to hear of this and was not aware of it. It seems to be a modified version of the one that was initially sent to us, so we are not paying too much attention to it." 

The 54-second video was posted on YouTube earlier this month and shows Mohamed in a white t-shirt with his hands in cuffs.

"My name is Shiraaz Mohamed, a South African photographer. To my family, to my president, my government, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman…," Mohamed starts.

"You sent me here but now you have forgotten about me. I can't understand. You help the whole world but not me," Mohamed is heard saying in the video.

"To my friends, those who know me, those that can help, please, I need your help. My situation is getting from bad to worse. I have survived two attacks from the Russian airforce. I don't know what will happen the third time.

"I need your help. Please get me out of here," he says at the end of the video, letting out a sigh.

Mohamed's captors had demanded a ransom of $1.5m (roughly R21.3m) for his safe release.

Sooliman said they have been communicating with the intermediary following the ransom request, with the last communication being on Sunday May 12.

"The intermediary has been very good and understanding and says he is trying to convince the captors to release Shiraaz unconditionally. He received the letters that we sent to him from the religious leaders, engaged the captors and said there were two reactions: one group still wants the ransom and the second group said, 'Release him unconditionally.' There is no finality which way it is going as yet," said Sooliman.

"This intermediary said, out of his own initiative, he approached two Middle Eastern governments to assist with the payment of the ransom. The answer was in the negative in both instances.

"He emphasised that the real concern right now is the intense bombing from the Russians, which puts Shiraaz's life in jeopardy. The intermediary said that communicating with the captors is far more complex now with all the bombing. However, he has sent a message today to ask for an explanation on who circulated the new video and what its purpose was."

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