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South Africa: Vigil for photojournalist abducted in Syria

South Africa

A night vigil to pray for the safe return of abducted South African photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed was held in Johannesburg, South Africa on Wednesday.

Members of Mohamed’s family said they were going through a hard time as time passed with no news of the whereabouts of Mohamed, who was abducted by armed men in Syria on Tuesday last week.

His trip was facilitated by relief organisation Gift of the Givers.

“Since he was kidnapped, Gift of the Givers has initiated our teams in Syria. We are using all our resources to look for Shiraaz but up until now we don’t have any information of which group has Shiraaz, why he has been taken and any demands or anything that’s needed to be made. We don’t have any of that stuff,” said Ahmed Bham a team leader with the Gift for the Givers foundation.

Since becoming a photographer about two years ago he’s captured human suffering on a number of humanitarian missions including the earthquake in Nepal, floods in Malawi and the xenophobic violence in Johannesburg.

Earlier on Tuesday, US-based Committee to Protect Journalists called on for Mohamed’s immediate release.

“We call for the immediate release of Shiraaz Mohamed, who entered Syria to help document the plight of Syrian civilians,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa programme coordinator, Sherif Mansour.

“His abduction is a reminder that journalists face an unprecedented threat of kidnapping throughout Syria, including in rebel-held Idlib province where Mohamed was taken.”

Imtiaz Sooliman, founder of Gift of the Givers, said no group had claimed responsibility for the kidnapping or issued any demands, according to South African media outlet eNCA.

The source further reports that a Syrian rebel group, the Nusra Front has however questioned a Gift of the Givers doctor over the disappearance of the photojournalist.

According to eNCA, the photographer reportedly texted his family to say there was a risk he might be detained, just a day before his planned departure.

The CPJ said Mohamed had published several pictures of Syrian children on his personal Facebook profile while in Syria. The Associated Press and the European Pressphoto Agency, for whom he had worked before, said was not on assignment for them in Syria.

More than 100 journalists have been kidnapped in Syria since 2011, according to CPJ research.

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