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Gift of the Givers makes ‘final attempt’ to secure Gerco van Deventer’s release

A recent image of Gerco van Deventer, who was taken hostage in Libya and then "sold off" to captors in Mali.
A recent image of Gerco van Deventer, who was taken hostage in Libya and then "sold off" to captors in Mali.
Image: Gift of the Givers/Supplied

Gift of the Givers says it has made a final attempt to secure the release of South African hostage Gerco van Deventer more than a month since his captors confirmed a final decision on his release was being considered.

Van Deventer, a paramedic, was captured in Libya by a splinter group of al-Qaeda before being “sold off” to captors in Mali.

He is a father of three and  a combat medic with advanced life support skills training. He has more than two decades of experience, including 11 years in the military as a medical practitioner.

He was in Libya as part of a one-month contract as a paramedic.

From 2020 to 2022 the family heard almost nothing about his whereabouts.

He is the only known South African hostage held anywhere in the world. 

On Sunday the humanitarian aid organisation's Dr Imtiaz Sooliman confirmed negotiator Mohamed Yehia Dicko had recently returned from Mali after "having engaged everyone possible" to secure Van Deventer's release.

"Yehia met the chief intermediary, several other intermediaries, elders, tribal leaders and people of influence to convince JNIM (al-Qaeda) to consider a ransom free release as there was no source to provide ransom money.

"Yehia also met Mali state security to facilitate safe his passage in the event a release occurs. The limiting factor in an unconditional release is the fact that JNIM 'purchased' Van Deventer from a group in Libya, and captors always want to be compensated for their 'investment'.

Sooliman reiterated the call Gift of the Givers had made in Ramadan, the Muslim month of mercy, to al-Qaeda for the unconditional release of Van Deventer as an act of goodwill and  with no payment of ransom.

This included a letter and video message in Arabic from the Muslim Judicial Council as well as a video appeal from his wife Shereen and her son Asher.

"JNIM confirmed receipt of all the material within 48 hours. Under normal circumstances they would then send an answer within 72 hours if they don't agree. Two months later we haven't received anything in the negative. On several occasions they said it is under discussion.

We have made it clear to JNIM that this is Gift of the Givers' final attempt as there are no alternative offerings except the ransom-free request
Gift of the Givers

"We reminded them of our request during the days of Hajj (pilgrimage), yet another blessed time. Again the answer was that they are considering. Inside information received puts those in favour of unconditional release at a higher percentage than those uncertain."

The organisation also reiterated Mali state security's offer of total cooperation while confirming South Africa's state security has also since done the same.

The latter's letter "requesting assistance" reached Mali authorities last week, Gift of the Givers confirmed.

"JNIM have been unambiguous in their communication that within the group an unconditional release is being discussed. There hasn't been an outright rejection. We wait, hope and pray. Mali and South Africa state security [agencies] are ready to respond immediately and facilitate safe and secure passage if JNIM sends a favourable response.

"We have made it clear to JNIM that this is Gift of the Givers final attempt as there are no alternative offerings except the ransom-free request," it said.

TimesLIVE


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