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ICC Note

Stephen McGown described his five and a half years in captivity with AQIM in Mali. Stephen was just a normal tourist on his way back home to South Africa, when his life changed immensely. On November 25, 2011, he was captured by the Islamic terrorist group AQIM and subsequently held for the next five years. There were many attempts to secure his release, but it was not until July 2017 that this would actually happen.


2017-11-01 Mali (BBC) It is a clear cold night in the Sahara desert and Stephen McGown lies on his back gazing up at the stars. Pulling his blanket under his chin he traces out the constellations he learned as a boy in South Africa.

“What a holiday of a lifetime this would be,” he thinks, “if I wasn’t a hostage of al-Qaeda.”

It is early 2017 and the London banker’s fifth year in captivity. He is the only one in the camp who prefers to sleep outside even in winter.

But despite living in a vast open space, his life has become “very small and routine”.

Each day Stephen rises before the sun for the Islamic dawn prayer, which he performs kneeling in the sand alongside a fellow hostage, Johan, and their jihadist kidnappers.

A breakfast of bread and powdered milk follows, after which the hostages either go back to sleep or exercise.

“We were free to move around an area the size of Twickenham Stadium,” Stephen recalls.



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