Al-Qaeda : South African hostage tells of 6-year ordeal

Al-Qaeda : South African hostage tells of 6-year ordeal

He was also still coming to terms with the news that his mother had died while he was being held hostage.

"Once converted, the guy wanted to wash your clothes by the river beds, even when you were a prisoner they would give you good meat... things changed dramatically".

Islamic extremists in Africa are still believed to be holding a Colombian nun taken from Mali, an Australian doctor and a Romanian man seized at different times in Burkina Faso, and an American who was working with a non profit organisation in Niger.

Mr McGown said he did not know whether a ransom was paid for his release.

It is believed the extremists were initially demanding a 10 million euro (£9 million) ransom per captive.

Sooliman said he was not involved in any ransom payment and dismissed reports of the $4.2 million payment.

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Two men released from al-Qaida captivity after six years in northern Mali made their first public appearances Thursday, recounting their ordeals and saying they were not clear whether any ransom was paid for their freedom. It puts other people in danger. "They can use that money in their war machinery", Gustafsson said of jihadists, in his first press conference since returning to Sweden on June 26.

Authorities have previously said that Mr McGown was released following efforts by the South African and Swedish governments and the NGO Gift of the Givers.

McGown, with a long beard and hair, said he had been better treated after converting to Islam, and was given better clothing and food. I entered [Islam] of my own accord. "It requires a very good character, a very strict character".

McGown was abducted while seated in a restaurant in Timbuktu.

Rijke was released in April 2015 by France´s Special Forces and McGown ended his captivity on July 29.

AQIM was one of several jihadist groups that took control of Mali's north in 2012 before being ousted by a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.

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