Stephen McGown was one of three people kidnapped by Al-Qaeda operatives from a restaurant in Timbuktu, Mali while on a trans-Africa motorcycle tour. McGown has finally been released and is back home in South Africa. A German who was traveling with him, and who refused to get into the truck, was shot and killed. A Swedish and Dutch national were taken captive along with McGown.

Stephen McGown is finally back home

African Independent reports that South African foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane made the announcement Thursday. She said McGown is currently undergoing medical testing, but appears to have no major injuries or medical problems.

The Al-Qaeda kidnappers had reportedly demanded a $5 million ransom for his release, but the South African government rejected it and Nkoana-Mashabane said in her news statement that no ransom was paid for McGown’s return. One of his fellow travelers, John Gustafsson from Sweden, was released by Al-Qaeda in June, while a Dutch national, Sjaak Rijke, was freed back in 2015 during a raid by French special forces.

South African government welcomes McGown home

Nkoana-Mashabane went on to say the South African government warmly welcomed McGown home and wished him good health and fortune in his future life as a free man. She noted that sadly McGown’s mother had passed away in May 2017 after a long illness and was not there to welcome him home, going on to offer McGown their condolences for his loss.

A video was released after Gustafsson’s release a month ago, where McGown spoke and did not seem to know his freedom was imminent. In the video he reportedly said it was a long time to be away from home and he asked when it all was going to come to an end.

No ransom paid for McGown

South African media organization Times Live said in a report that the New York Times had claimed a ransom of around 3.5 million euros ($4.1 million) had been paid for McGown’s release, but this was denied by the South African government.

Imtiaz Sooliman, a spokesperson for The Gift of the Givers – an African disaster relief foundation – said they were initially involved in negotiations for McGown’s release. However, Sooliman said in a statement that they could not confirm whether any ransom had been paid as they were not involved in the final stages of the negotiation for McGown’s release.

They did say that they themselves paid no ransom and that they were only involved up until the end of June when they told the South African government that negotiations required government to government intervention.

Sooliman said the Al-Qaeda captives were demanding 4 million euros at the time ($4.7 million), and as they don’t hold that kind of money, they said the government in Mali should speak to the South African government to finalize matters.

Family says Stephen McGown’s father is a ‘true hero’ in his release

Times Live quotes McGown’s cousin, Dawn Daniels, as saying it was his father’s persistence that finally freed the hostage.

Calling Malcolm McGown a “true hero,” she said he never gave up, working tirelessly to get his son home again.

Daniels said while the whole family kept their hopes up for McGown’s return, it was Malcolm who worked every day to get him home, by endlessly calling and emailing people, pushing for his son’s release.