South African Stephen McGown was released on Saturday, having been held by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) for six years. McGown abducted in November 2011 from Timbuktu, alongside Swedish Johan Gustafsson and Dutchman Sjaak Rijke. Rijke was freed by French special forces in April 2015 and Gustafsson was released in June this year.

The New York Times piece below reports a significant ransom was paid for McGown’s release. The South African Government has said it did not pay a ransom for his release and the Gift of the Givers has denied knowledge of the ransom.

From the Guardian

Al-Qaida frees South African man held in Mali for six years

Al-Qaida’s north Africa branch has freed a South African man who was held hostage for six years in Mali and he has returned home, South Africa’s government has announced.

Stephen McGown, who was released on Saturday, was the longest-held of a number of foreigners seized by Islamist extremists in Mali, where several armed groups roam the west African country’s north.

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South Africa: Stephen McGown a Free Man

McGown was kidnapped in November 2011 while touring in Timbuktu together with Swedish national Johan Gustaffsson – who was freed earlier this year.

The South African government together with humanitarian aid organisations have been campaigning for McGown’s release since his kidnapping.

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From the New York Times

Hostage Held by Al Qaeda in Mali for 5 Years Is Freed

Mr. McGown’s captivity had become a cause célèbre in South Africa, but his freedom came at a price: A retired European intelligence official said on Thursday that 3.5 million euros (about $4.2 million) had been paid.

The retired official, who requested anonymity to discuss delicate information, said that the payment was negotiated through Gift of the Givers Foundation, a South African charity that had campaigned for Mr. McGown’s release. The former official said it was transferred by an undercover agent working for French security services in the Adrar des Iforas mountains in the deserts of northern Mali where Qaeda militants have held hostages.

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