LISTEN: How a hostage negotiator risked it all to help get Stephen McGowan home

Local aid group Gift of the Givers has thanked their hostage negotiator, Mohamed Yehia Dicko who worked tirelessly to secure the release of a South African who was held hostage by al-Qaeda militants in Mali.

Stephen McGowan was abducted in 2011 along with a Swedish national, who was released in June.

Gift of the Givers had been negotiating McGowan's release for two years and confirmed that he had been freed on Thursday.

Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman expressed his gratitude to Dicko, who uprooted his life to ensure McGowan's safe return.

Sooliman explains that after four years of fruitless efforts by authorities, Dicko managed to secure contact with McGowan's captors within six weeks of his arrival in Mali.

He recounts how Dicko responded to a public appeal for a negotiator of Mali origin and the journey that led to McGowan's release.

He left his business, his children and his wife. We sent him in and that point it had been four years and nobody had made contact with al-Qaeda.

Imtiaz Sooliman, Director of Gift of the Givers

I had a sixth sense and inner feeling from the first minute. I actually authorised him without actually seeing him.

Imtiaz Sooliman, Director of Gift of the Givers

There were other people who came forward to help, but the minute I spoke to Mohammed I knew he was the man we were going to send.

Imtiaz Sooliman, Director of Gift of the Givers

He explains how the process of negotiating unfolded over the two years and how government intervened.

Take a listen:

Meanwhile, Yolande Korke, a hostage survivor has shared the emotional experience of release and the challenges of reintegrating into society.

Take a listen:


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