Talks to start with kidnappers to free SA hostage in Yemen

2014-01-13 13:10

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Face-to-face negotiations with a group of kidnappers holding a South African teacher for ransom in Yemen will begin this week, says Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman.

Today, Anas Al-Hamati, the NGO’s office manager in Yemen, will fly into the area where Pierre Korkie is being held, said Sooliman.

“[Al-Hamati] has been in constant contact over the phone and face-to-face negotiations are going to start tomorrow,” he said.

“[He] will take copies of [Korkie’s] South African passport to prove that he is not American, [because] the amount they are demanding is outrageous.”

Korkie’s wife, Yolande, was released last week with the help of the organisation. She and her husband were captured in the city of Taiz in May.

On Friday, the kidnappers asked for $3 million (R32 million) to be paid within eight days for Korkie’s release.

Sooliman said at the time: “The first aim is to extend the deadline, the next is to see if we can bring down the amount.”

He said Al-Hamati had a “good rapport” with the kidnappers.

“We are hoping we can convince them we need more time.”

Sooliman said South Africa’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia landed in Yemen on Sunday morning. He will help with transportation and a new passport for Yolande Korkie to return to South Africa.

He said she was feeling better and calmer on Sunday. She had cried for a long time on Saturday, but was now focused on organising a campaign in South Africa to raise the money to free her husband.

“She’s very worried about her husband,” said Sooliman.

The Sunday Independent reported that Yolande Korkie said in a telephone interview that she could not find the words to thank Gift of the Givers for its help.

“Our hearts are overflowing. The people of South Africa must know that the passion and the commitment of the Gift of the Givers is unrivalled,” she was quoted as telling the newspaper.

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