South Africa’s longest-held hostage, Gerco van Deventer, has finally been released after being held captive by Al-Qaeda for six years.
Van Deventer, a paramedic, was abducted in Libya in 2017.
He was released on Saturday night and is currently in the care of Algerian authorities.
Gift of the Givers founder Dr Imtiaz Sooliman said van Deventer’s family roped in the organisation to assist with his safe release.
“Sometime yesterday [Saturday], we’re not sure of the exact time, Gerco was released. Our state security in South Africa got a call from the Algerian state security to say they have Gerco and they have taken him to hospital for a health check-up.”
The assistance from an unknown person in Mauritania may have played a crucial part in negotiating van Deventer’s safe release.
The husband and father of two had been held hostage by Al-Qaeda since his capture in Libya in 2017.
Sooliman said on 5 December, they received a call from someone in Mauritania – a country neighbouring Mali, who said they were working to have van Deventer released.
Sooliman said since 2018, Gift of the Givers had been trying to negotiate for the paramedic’s release.
“The initial request for Gerco was $3 million, and over a period of time we negotiated the amount down to $500,000. The family could not afford the ransom, there was no benefactor, the company that Gerco had just commenced work for could not assist. Gift of the givers does not pay ransom.”
Van Deventer has been taken to hospital by Algerian authorities.
Sooliman said the main goal is to get van Deventer back home to his family.
“We now await the next step between Algeria and South Africa in the hope to have Gerco home for his wife, daughter, and son who have been waiting for a very long period with hope and may this end in a very beautiful manner.”