While riding his motorbike through Mali, on his way home from London to Johannesburg,
Steve McGown was taken captive in Timbuktu by Al Qaeda. Life as he knew it, changed in
that instant. With nothing to bargain with and everything to lose, for the next six years
Steve became reluctantly engaged in what he refers to as, “the greatest chess game of my
Six Years With Al Qaeda by Stephen McGown
Thousands of kilometres away in Johannesburg, the shock of his kidnapping hit his wife Cath
and the rest of the McGown family. Working every option they could find, from established
diplomatic protocols to the murky back channels of the kidnap game, they set to work on
trying to free Steve.
As the months turned into years, Steve would have to go to extraordinary lengths to survive
both his prison and his prisoners. His sole focus was to make it back home and to raise his
status among Al Qaeda. Steve taught himself French, Arabic, converted to Islam and
accepted a new name, Lot.
To this day he holds the unenviable record of Al Qaeda’s longest held prisoner and while the
captive-captor dynamic was always there, by virtue of the long years he spent with them
Steve got to see what no Westerner has ever seen before.
Six Years With Al Qaeda is not just an incredible story of mental strength, physical
endurance and the resilience of the human spirit, but also a unique, nuanced perspective on
one of the world’s most feared terrorist organisations. Not only did Steve McGown survive
his ordeal, but in many respects he came out of the desert both a changed man and a
stronger, more positive human.