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South African photographer abducted in Syria, aid group says

In this undated photo South African Shiraaz Mohamed is photographed in Johannesburg. An aid group says that Mohamed has been abducted by armed men in Syria while traveling with aid workers to the border with Turkey. The Gift of the Givers group said Saturday Jan. 14, 2017 that Mohamed was kidnapped on Tuesday afternoon near a medical facility operated by the South African aid organization. (AP Photo)

In this undated photo South African Shiraaz Mohamed is photographed in Johannesburg. An aid group says that Mohamed has been abducted by armed men in Syria while traveling with aid workers to the border with Turkey. The Gift of the Givers group said Saturday Jan. 14, 2017 that Mohamed was kidnapped on Tuesday afternoon near a medical facility operated by the South African aid organization. (AP Photo)

JOHANNESBURG — Gunmen in Syria have abducted a South African freelance photographer who was travelling with aid workers to the border with Turkey, an aid group said Saturday.

Shiraaz Mohamed was kidnapped on Tuesday afternoon on a "relatively safe route" near a medical facility operated by Gift of the Givers, said Imtiaz Sooliman, founder of the South African aid organization.

The kidnappers put guns to the heads of two aid workers with Mohamed and then blindfolded all three and drove with the captives for an hour, Sooliman said in a text message sent to journalists.

The gunmen freed the two aid workers but said they would question Mohamed to clear up an unspecified "misunderstanding" and would release him at a Gift of the Givers facility after two days, according to Sooliman.

"They asked if Shiraaz is a foreigner. Our people replied yes. They asked if he has a passport. They said yes. They asked if he's Muslim. They said yes," Sooliman said.

He said the gunmen, asked by the aid workers about their identity, claimed to "represent all groups inside Syria."

Mohamed was not released on Thursday, despite the gunmen's pledge to free him.

For years, Gift of the Givers has provided medical care and other aid to Syrians affected by the country's civil war.

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