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This is what we know about the South African photojournalist kidnapped in Syria

Johannesburg photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed has been kidnapped after trying to leave Syria through the Turkish border, with members of charity and aid group, Gift of the Givers.

According to Imtiaz Sooliman, founder of the organisation, Mohamed was taken away to an unknown location after being stopped on the road near the border by armed men on Tuesday, 10 January. The men removed Mohamed from the car at gunpoint after questioning the other members about his identity. They were blindfolded and driven to a different location before being told that Mohamed would be questioned due to an unknown “misunderstanding”, and would return within two days. As of Saturday, 14 January, his whereabouts are still unknown.

Sooliman has informed the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, and has said that the organisation has an idea of who the men are but the information cannot be revealed. He also said that the Gift of the Givers is doing everything they can to ensure the safe return of Mohamed.

The organisation is well established in the north of Syria, with many medical services. Its members are working together on the ground to gain information on his location and condition. Radio 702 reported that Gift of the Givers are in touch with the Turkish government to find Mohamed.

Mohamed, 38, is from Johannesburg. He arrived in Syria on Wednesday, 4 January, after planning the trip for months, and photographed in and around the Gift of the Givers hospitals. He was meant to have left the country on Tuesday, aided by the charity’s members.

On Monday, 9 January, Mohamed texted his family to say that there was a chance he might be detained before leaving the country. He wrote that he wasn’t worried as he knew the South African government and Gift of the Givers would get him him out.

Mohamed’s spiritual advisor, Mohamed Shah, spoke to his mother and sister and stated that they are hopeful about his return and confident that he is safe, although his abduction had been a blow. Shah says Mohamed is the owner of the Ennerdale Sun community newspaper and has built his photography career over a decade, freelancing at many South African and international mainstream media organisations.

In a public statement to Maryke Vermaak of Jacaranda FM, his family stated they were “devastated” at the news of his disappearance.

“Shiraaz’s passion for his pictures and for people led him into a distinguished career as an international photographer of note … Last year, he travelled to 12 countries. He flew to Nepal to cover the earthquakes on a solo trip knowing that he may not return, but did it anyway for the love of photography.”

Mohamed’s ex-wife has said that “not knowing’ is the hardest part.

“We are praying for his safety and immediate release. His mum, Shireen Mohamed, begs anyone who may have him to please let him return safely to us.”

This story has been corrected to reflect Mohamed’s place of residence

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