South Africa

‘In good spirits’ – Al-Qaeda captive Gerco van Deventer reconnects with family after six years

Gerco van der Venter

His family expressed gratitude to the Algerian and South African government in facilitating his release.

South African paramedic Gerco van Deventer has returned home to his family, just in time for Christmas.

Van Deventer, who was abducted in 2017 in Libya and sold to Al-Qaeda militants in Mali, had been held captive until recently.

Humanitarian organisation,  Gift of the Givers was pivotal in negotiating his unconditional release.

The organisation first got involved in 2018, after they were approached by his family for assistance.

‘Space and privacy’

In a statement, Van Deventer’s family confirmed the safe return of the paramedic, who has spent “the last few days reconnecting”.

“Gerco has been receiving the necessary medical support and is in good health and spirits,” the statement read.

The family expressed gratitude to the Algerian government in securing his release.

“We are also grateful for the role played by South Africa’s State Security Agency [SSA] in facilitating Gerco’s release and safe return to South Africa.

ALSO READ: Gift of the Givers’ final plea to Al-Qaeda to release Gerco van Deventer

“We acknowledge the efforts played by several NGOs and specifically the Gift of the Givers, for all their efforts in trying to secure Gerco’s release,” the statement further reads.

They further confirmed that a press conference would be held soon.

“We will in the coming weeks be advising of details pertaining to an open media conference. We humbly request that as a family we be given the necessary space and privacy to allow us to heal. Once again, a big heartfelt thank you to everyone who supported us in this time.”

Six years in captivity

Confirming Van Deventer’s release after six years in captivity, Gift of the Givers founder Dr Imtiaz Sooliman recently told eNCA that his organisation made attempts to have the ransom amount of 3 million US dollars (R55.4 million) reduced once it got involved.

Unfortunately, the family still couldn’t afford ransom, even after it was significantly sliced to $500 000 (R9.23 million).

READ MORE: South African Gerco van Deventer freed after six years in Al-Qaeda captivity

Sooliman explained that Gift of the Givers doesn’t pay ransom, but only facilitates negotiations for families of hostages.

The process was halted and further hindered by the Covid-19 pandemic, until earlier this year when an intermediary urged the organisation to “try again.”

Sooliman said they strategically tried to reach out to Al-Qaeda during the religious periods of Ramaadan and sacred Pilgrimage, hoping to appeal to the militants’ hearts.

Gift of the Givers’ pleas seemingly fell on deaf ears.

However, their efforts in providing assistance to victims of the recent Moroccan earthquake echoed loudly.

“Some of these captors are linked to the people in Morocco, and they knew that we offered assistance,” Sooliman said.

Fast-forward to December, van Deventer was finally released and taken to Algeria for medical attention before returning home.