South African group receives videos of Mali hostages

Islamic extremists who abducted a South African and a Swede in Mali four years ago have released videos to a charity in which the hostages have long beards and appear healthy.

Gift of the Givers, a South African charity trying to broker the release of the two men, said in a statement late Tuesday that the videos of Stephen McGowan and Johan Gustafsson were made on Oct. 20.

The men are being held by Al Qaeda's branch in North Africa, according to Gift of the Givers.

In the videos, the men say they have heard a South African organization is making efforts to secure their release.

"My wife and my family: I am well. I hope you are all well back home," McGowan says. In a separate video, Gustafsson says he is "safe and sound" and misses his family.

The negotiator working for Gift of the Givers arrived in Mali's capital, Bamako, on Nov. 25 and received the videos on Tuesday, the charity said.

"The road is still long but we will make progress," the group's statement said.

Gustafsson and McGowan were abducted in November 2011 from a hostel in Timbuktu in northern Mali. A Dutch national kidnapped along with them was rescued by French special forces in April.

In a separate case in Yemen, an abducted South African, Yolande Korkie, was released in the city of Taiz in January 2014 after negotiations involving Gift of the Givers, which has an office in Yemen.

The group said it was negotiating the release of her husband, Pierre Korkie, when he died in a U.S. raid on Al Qaeda militants in December 2014. American hostage Luke Somers was also killed in the rescue attempt.