Maha Qassim might be reunited with her family but her kidnapping ordeal has left her ’heavily traumatised’
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Johannesburg - Her horrific kidnap ordeal may be over, but for 11-year-old Maha Qassim, the traumatic ordeal will stay with the youngster for a long time.
A source close to the family of the girl who was snatched outside of her school, EP Baumann, in Johannesburg, in November last year, says the experience has left the young girl heavily traumatised.
“Thankfully, she is fine physically and it doesn’t seem like her kidnappers hurt her physically, however she is heavily traumatised.”
She was abducted while she was waiting to be sanitised and screened outside the school gate.
Her alleged kidnappers were reportedly driving a new-shaped silver/white Toyota Yaris with the registration number JS 62 CS GP.
Police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Netshiunda confirmed on Wednesday that Maha had been found, but could not elaborate until she had been processed by authorities. He was unable to comment on her health as she was being checked for mental and physical ailments.
Netshiunda said that members of the Crime Intelligence Anti-Kidnapping Task Team, assisted by the Johannesburg Flying Squad pounced on a house in Devland, Soweto around midnight on Tuesday.
He added that the suspects who were at the house evaded arrest and that a 40-year-old man was arrested in Mozambique on December 31. Interpol was busy with the extradition process.
“Two other suspects, Ayanda Kekana, 50, and Fortune Kambule Ndlovu, 36, were arrested in December 2021 in connection with the same kidnapping and their bail application was denied when they appeared at the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court on 7 December, 2021.
It has been alleged that Maha had been moved around three times during her kindapping ordeal, having been finally found in Freedom Park.
“There was a ransom demand and R2.4 million cash was paid two weeks before she was released, however they failed to release her,” said the source close to the family. There was a further demand for more ransom and the family then didn’t pay the ransom.
“By that time, the two suspects were arrested. Subsequent to that, the police’s investigation led them to Mozambique where they arrested the kingpin. Apparently they fed her light stuff like cooldrink and crisps over the 38 days. She’s highly traumatised. Physically she’s okay but emotionally she’s traumatised. The family is now dealing with that situation.”
While it has ended well for the Qassim family, the Khan family of Lenasia haven’t been as fortunate.
On Thursday , police discovered the mutilated body of 43-year-old Zeyn Khan in the Roodeplaat Dam in Pretoria.
Khan had been missing since November, and ransom had been requested by his kidnappers, however no proof of life was given to his family.
Khan’s body was discovered after Kameeldrift police received information that a member of the public had seen someone dumping something into the dam from a bridge.
“She notified the police, who immediately responded. Upon arrival at the said place, the police discovered a frozen body wrapped in a plastic bag. The body was mutilated, with the head, arms, legs and private parts missing,” said police spokesperson Colonel Dimakatso Sello.
Meanwhile, anti-crime activist Yusuf Abramjee has praised the SAPS’s new restructured kidnapping task team, following the breakthrough in the Qassim kidnapping case.
Abramjee said the task team was starting to show some “good results.”
“They need to continue the momentum. These kidnapping syndicates have been running wild for a long time and they need to be brought to book. The law must come down hard on them. They have been terrorising families for far too long.”
Abramjee also expressed his delight after 11-year-old Maha was freed by police.
“It’s a real relief. Let’s give the victim and the family time to recover from the ordeal.”
Abramjee added that many of the kidnappings were for ransom.
“These syndicates are now going for soft targets, women and children. That’s a big worry.”
He said that the police’s crime Intelligence unit was also slowly making inroads as part of the task team and that’s a positive sign.
“Major General Feroz Khan and his team of the task team are working hard.”
Johannesburg based security company, Vision Tactical, has also been assisting in several kidnapping cases.
“We have seen some excellent results over recent weeks and the partnership between the police is working,” said the company’s director Yaseen Theba.
“When families approach us for help, we offer our services free of charge. No one should be profiting out of the hardship of others.”
Theba said that while several arrests have been made recently in a number of kidnapping cases, the suspects had to be convicted.
“The easy granting of bail is a problem. The law must be firm. We are seeing some suspects out on bail for other serious crimes.”
Theba said some syndicates view kidnappings as easy money.
“We’ve even had one or two involved in CIT robberies now part of kidnapping syndicates.”