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Mali kidnap: wife devastated

Motorcycling across Africa was going to be his last epic trip. He was ready to settle down, start a family, and take over his father’s business. It was just one last adventure – another item to strike off the bucket list.

But days after arriving in Mali last week, the South African man, 37, was taken captive with two friends at gunpoint in the capital Timbuktu.

Photo: Steve Lawrence. Credit: INLSA

The man’s family have not heard anything from the him in the two days since reports of the attack.

His wife arrived in Gauteng on Sunday. “She’s putting on a brave face – we all are – but she’s devastated,” said the man’s distraught father.

The International Relations Department was waiting for news from Mali’s government and the South African embassy on the captives’ whereabouts.

The man’s father said on Sunday he had last spoken to his son on Thursday, the night before the kidnapping.

After years of living in England, the man was making his way across Africa to South Africa.

Travelling south from Timbuktu, he was due home in a few weeks.

He was travelling with two friends – one Dutch and the other Swedish.

Speaking on Skype on Thursday, the man told his father civil unrest in Timbuktu was “getting out of hand”, and it was time for the group to leave Mali as soon as possible.

But less than 24 hours later, the man and his two friends were reported missing, after an incident near their campsite that left another German national dead.

Associated Press reported that the travellers were at a Timbuktu restaurant when a group of gunmen burst in, taking four tourists and killing the German when he refused to climb into their truck. “They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said the man’s father.

The identities of three of the kidnapped men are known to the authorities, but because of the sensitive nature of the incident, have not been revealed. No personal details on the fourth tourist have emerged.

Canadian tourist Julie-Ann Leblond said she met the South African, a Swede and a Dutch couple in Mali. They invited her to join them as they headed to Timbuktu. But she took ill and stayed behind in Bamako.

“I was never so happy to get a cold,” said Leblond, 25, from Quebec City.

Despite having ransomed dozens of tourists visiting Mali since 2003, the al-Qaeda branch in the country has not claimed responsibility for the kidnappings. Mali, which borders Algeria, established democracy in 1992, and has had to deal with cross-border banditry and terrorism that have involved numerous kidnappings.

Department of International Relations spokesman Clayson Monyela said it remained unclear who kidnapped the men and why.

The families of the Swedish and Dutch men had reportedly been contacted regarding ransoms. “But we haven’t heard a thing. We were told it could be up to three months before we’re contacted. It may be to put us under pressure, said the father.

International Relations had been working to get information on the man’s whereabouts, Monyela said. - The Star

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