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South African paramedic Gerco van Deventer, hostage in the Sahel since 2017, freed

This undated and unlocated handout picture released by the van Deventer family shows Gerco van Deventer.   -  
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South African Gerco van Deventer who was abducted in Libya in November 2017 is now free. NGO Gift of the Givers made the announcement on Sunday (Dec. 17).

The longest held South African hostage in captivity was sold to Al-Qaeda in Mali in 2018 after his abduction.

In a lengthy news release, the organization detailed the process that led to the unconditional liberation of the forty-seven-year-old paramedic who is reportedly in Algeria.

Gift of the Givers said that at the request of the van Deventer's family, the organization "got involved in 2018, contacted JNIM (Jama'at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin)". The initial request for Gerco's release "was 3 million USD, and over a period of time we negotiated the amount down to 500k USD," the NGO writes.

"The family could not afford the ransom, there was no benefactor, the company that Gerco had just commenced work for could not assist."

Negotiations stalled and eventually with Covid-19 went cold completely until January 2023. 

In Ramadan, the month of fasting for Muslims, of this year, Gift of the Givers "requested unconditional, ransom free release" of the paramedic.

"Letters from religious leaders were forwarded to support [their] request."

"Then came the Morocco Earthquake, we offered assistance, but it was not required, however, it drew a response from the captors who have links with Morocco, and through the intermediaries we received an indirect message of appreciation. We used that moment to request unconditional release once again. Then with our intervention in Gaza, one of the chief intermediaries in Mali with whom we have a relationship since 2015 requested the video messages from the family, the public and the private ones. The request came on 16 November, several hours after Gift of the Givers office head in Gaza, Ahmed Abbasi, was directly targeted and murdered by Israeli Occupation Forces [...]," the organization recounted on a Facebook post.

"On 5 December we received a call from someone in Mauritania who said they are working on the release" and eventually on December 26, one of the group's "very trusted intermediaries" told them "that Gerco had been released into Algeria."

The organization Gift of the Givers says no ransom was paid.