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The government is doing all it can to secure the release of South African national Stephen McGowan, who has been held hostage in Mali since 2011 by an al-Qaeda-affiliated organisation, says Deputy Minister of International Relations and Co-operation Ebrahim Ebrahim.
Ebrahim said on Wednesday he did not know whether Britain’s controversial release of the radical Islamist cleric Abu Qatada on Tuesday would help with the release of McGowan.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is believed to be holding McGowan, a Swede and a Dutch national captured with him in November 2011. A German who was also captured at the same time was shot dead when he resisted abduction.
AQIM released a video of McGowan in captivity earlier this year. It had announced that it would consider releasing him, Swede Johan Gustafson and Dutchman Sjaak Rijke if Britain released Qatada to the country of his choice.
The British government wants to deport him to his home country, Jordan, but an immigration body prevented this and released him to return to his British home because of concerns that he would not get a fair trial in Jordan. The British government is expected to appeal the decision.
Nevertheless, his release has prompted some speculation that it would accelerate the release of the three hostages.
Ebrahim said in an interview he was not aware of a link between the two events. - Independent Foreign Service