Anxious wait for abducted man’s family

Businessman Naushad Khan, 46, was kidnapped from his Athlone clothing store.

It’s been more than a week since businessman Naushad Khan – also known as Naushad Desmukh – the owner of Khans clothing store, was kidnapped outside his Athlone business, and despite media reports to the contrary, his family say there has been no word from his abductors.

The 46-year-old businessman, who lives with his wife, Nafeesah, and their three children aged 10 to 15, in Constantia, is believed to have been kidnapped on Monday October 31, as he and a manager, identified only as Mariam, locked up the shop for the day after 6pm.

According to Dina George, a security guard, four armed men in a white Toyota Hilux double cab sped down the road, coming to a halt in front of the Hadji Ebrahim Crescent shop.

Mr George said the men got out of the car and pointed a gun at him and Mr Khan before tying the businessman’s hands and ordering him into the car.

They then asked Mr George for his radio, threw it into the car and asked Mariam what was in her handbag.

After she replied “nothing”, they threw it into the car as well and sped off with Mr Khan, leaving Mariam behind. Mr Khan’s cellphone dropped to the ground in the scuffle.

Mr George said one of the staff at Mukhtar Hiring (next to Khans clothing store) then called the police.

“The police came in the next 10 minutes and asked me in what direction they went, so I said they went down Johnson Road. They came back and told me they didn’t find anyone. They then asked me for my statement, and I gave it. I only left at 8.30pm that evening,” said Mr George.

During the incident, he said, he had remained quiet and secretly memorised the number plate of the double cab which he gave to police. He also said that Mr Khan had remained calm and followed the kidnappers’ orders.

Athlone police station’s Colonel Alton Larry said that while a case of kidnapping had been opened, this had not been a “normal kidnapping” and that he could not divulge any further information.

Hanif Loonat, chairman of the Mitchell’s Plain Cluster Community Police Forum, which Athlone police station is part of, said the kidnapping of wealthy businessmen had become a common occurrence in the community.

He said despite rumours on social media, Mr Khan’s bank cards had not been used and nor had the getaway car been found.

On Wednesday November 2, there were also reports on social media that Mr Khan’s body had been found in Somerset West, but Athlone police spokeswoman Sergeant Zita Norman said that was not true.

The family’s spokesman also denied last week’s media reports claiming Mr Khan had contacted his family to tell that them his kidnappers had demanded 20 million pounds (about R335 million) for his safe return.

Khalil Kader, a family friend, said the family had not received any ransom demands and were still very emotional about the incident.

Sergeant Norman also denied that there had been a ransom demand.

Mr Kader also had a slightly different version of how the abduction took place. He said that at 5.50pm, five men got out of the car, with the driver remaining behind the wheel.

According to Mr Kader, the men then tackled Mr Khan to the ground and tied his hands, at which point Mr Khan’s cellphone fell out of his pocket. The phone, he said, is in his possession.

“Up till today (Monday) we have heard nothing, and the family is waiting very patiently on the kidnappers’ call,” he said.

“All of these rumours on social media are adding extra pressure on the family. He is a very private person who didn’t share his business dealings with anyone, not even his wife. We didn’t notice anything funny or any weird messages or threats on his cellphone.

“The rumours that the bank card had been used are not true. We are praying and hoping that he returns safely to us,” said Mr Kader.

“The family is urging anyone with any substantial information to come forward rather than spreading rumours. It is a very sensitive matter, and we cannot divulge too much information to anyone as that compromises his safety,” he said.

In June, Athlone News reported that Aqib Khan, from Pakistan, had been shot and killed in a cellphone shop that he managed in Rylands (“Rylands shop keeper shot dead,” June 22). The 27-year-old was shot three times in the chest after two people, one of them with a gun, entered the Top Cell cellphone shop in Hazel Road, after 3pm.