Stephen McGown Assumed Al-Qaeda Release Was 'Joke'

Captured South African thought al-Qaida release was joke

Stephen McGown, who also has South African citizenship, was captured in Mali while on a motorcycle tour of Africa.

Mr McGown told reporters in South Africa he did not know whether any ransom was paid for his release in late July.

A 42-year-old Swedish, Johan Gustafsson, held hostage by al Qaeda in Mali for almost six years, has said today that he did not know why he was released.

"You want to believe, but you're exhausted of really coming down with a bang after they tell you you should be going home soon". South Africa's government has said it paid no ransom.

Mr McGown had been kidnapped together with two other Westerners, including Swedish national Johan Gustafsson, who was released a few weeks earlier in June.

"I did my best to see the best in a bad situation", McGown said, looking in good health and smiling regularly despite recently suffering from severe fever, headaches and meningitis.

He says despite the conditions, he had to keep mentally fit because he didn't want to come home an angry person.

'Personally, I think it's wrong, it puts other people in jeopardy.

Mr McGown said he did not know whether a ransom was paid for his release.

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He was also still coming to terms with the news that his mother had died while he was being held hostage.

The 42-year-old said his captors treated him better after he adopted Islam, giving him clothes, food and medication.

But I think they saw it as their duty to accept it, even though I have a hard time believing that they actually believed me'.

But Imtiaz Sooliman said the extremists' initial demands started at 10 million euros (£9 million) per captive.

He added that his captors thought that US President Donald Trump would draw more Muslims to fight against the West.

"Before the desert, I was a Christian".

"I see a lot of good in Islam".

McGown admitted to being "in the dark" over world events in the last six years as the hostages had only had a radio for a short time and no books in English.

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