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[WATCH] Former Al-Qaeda hostage opens up about his six years in captivity

25 November 2020 3:33 PM
Tags:
al-Qaeda
Stephen McGown
Steve McGown
CAPTIVE

South African Steve McGown was captured by Al Qaeda for six years in Mali. He's the extremist group’s longest-held surviving captive.

On 25 November 2011 Stephen McGown and two other men were taken by gunmen from a hostel in Timbuktu. They were held for several years as hostages of Al-Qaeda.

Exactly nine years later, McGown chats to CapeTalk host Pippa Hudson about his remarkable story of survival.

McGown was released by Al-Qaeda on 29 July 2017. He has told his story to writer Tudor Caradoc-Davies, in a new book titled Six Years With Al Qaeda: The Stephen McGown Story.

WATCH: Stephen McGown chats to Pippa Hudson about his story:

In 2011, McGown was on a motorcycle trip from London to Johannesburg after quitting his job in the banking sector.

He was in the Mali tourist town of Timbuktu when things took a tragic turn. McGown recalls the horror-filled moment when he realised he had his British passport in his pocket the day he was captured.

McGown says the militia who captured him hated the British nation.

It was the first kidnapping in Mali Timbuktu... I had my passport in my pocket and I didn't realise. When I realised, it literally felt like the world was coming down around me. I went icy cold and numb.

Stephen McGown, speaker

McGown says he had a break down in 2013, two years into his captivity in the desert.

That's when he realised that he had to focus on himself and work on becoming a better person in the hopes that he would survive and be reunited with his family.

He played a “mental game” trying to strategise for his survival and found ways to kept himself bus to combat his boredom and loneliness.

The first period of the desert was literally being broken down... At one stage I thought I'm not going to survive this.

Stephen McGown, speaker

Because I had no control over anything, I wasn't sure if I would survive tomorrow. I decided that I need to focus on something.... I decided that the only thing certain is me.

Stephen McGown, speaker

In writing the book, Caradoc-Davies spoke to McGown's family about the agony they went through trying to rescue him.

There is no blueprint when a kidnapping like this happens because it's different in every circumstance what the terrorist organisation wants from the governments involved.

Tudor Caradoc-Davies, writer

It was incredibly difficult for Steve's family trying to find a way through this... You're not trained with negotiating with terrorists.

Tudor Caradoc-Davies, writer

Listen to Steve McGown and Tudor Caradoc-Davies on Lunch with Pippa Hudson:


25 November 2020 3:33 PM
Tags:
al-Qaeda
Stephen McGown
Steve McGown
CAPTIVE

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