Condolences stream in for Korkie

2014-12-06 15:49
Pierre Korkie

Pierre Korkie

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Johannesburg - Condolences streamed in on Saturday after South African Pierre Korkie and American photographer Luke Somers, who were being held hostage by Al-Qaeda militants, were killed in a failed rescue operation in Yemen. Athlete Zola Budd, who Korkie previously coached, was devastated by the news, her manager Ray de Vries said in a statement.

"I spoke to her [Budd] this morning and she has said that out of respect to the family, she does not want to make any comment at this time," he said.

Earlier this year, Budd participated in the Comrades Marathon and dedicated her run to Korkie and appealed for his release.

Somers and Korkie were being held hostage by Al-Qaeda militants in Yemen and were killed during a failed rescue mission by the United States special forces on Saturday morning.

US president Barack Obama sent his condolences to the Somers and Korkie families, describing the murders as 'barbaric'.

"On behalf of the American people, I offer my deepest condolences to Luke's family and to his loved ones," the Deutsche Presse-Agentur quoted Obama as saying.

"I also offer my thoughts and prayers to the family of a non-US citizen hostage who was also murdered by these terrorists during the rescue operation."

The Gift of the Givers, who had been negotiating Korkie's release, earlier confirmed to Sapa that Korkie had been killed in the rescue operation.

Tributes to Korkie's family were also posted on social networking site Facebook.

Please release Korkie

On the 'You can help release Pierre Korkie' Facebook page, Denise Jooste wrote in Afrikaans: "Most sincere condolences to the family of Pierre Korkie with his passing."

She also posted a few Bible verses.

On the same page, Rika Slabbert wrote in Afrikaans: "Words can not make the pain better. Pierre's loved ones and friends are in our prayers. Good luck." Leni Blome said: "So unnecessary. Good luck to his loved ones."

Korkie and his wife Yolande were kidnapped by the militants in Taiz, Yemen, in May last year. Yolande was released on 10 January and returned to South Africa on 13 January. The Gift of the Givers helped negotiate her release.

At the time of the kidnapping, Korkie was a teacher in Yemen, while his wife did relief work in hospitals.

The kidnappers demanded about R32.5m in exchange for Korkie's safe return, but the mission failed when the money went missing.

On Friday, Obama ordered US special operation forces to conduct a mission in Yemen to rescue Somers and Korkie, the Associated Press reported.

Speaking in Afghanistan, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said: "There were compelling reasons to believe Somers' life was in imminent danger."

"Several of the ...terrorists holding the hostages captive were killed in the mission. The rescue attempt took place in central Yemen and was conducted in partnership with the government of Yemen."

Yemen's national security chief, Maj-Gen Ali al-Ahmadi was quoted as saying: "Al-Qaeda promised to conduct the execution [of Somers] today so there was an attempt to save them but unfortunately they shot the hostage before or during the attack. He was freed but unfortunately he was dead."

Somers, who worked as a copy editor and a freelance photographer during the 2011 uprising in Yemen, was kidnapped in September 2013 from Sanaa.

Yemen's local al-Qaeda branch posted a video on Thursday showing Somers being threatened with death if the US did not meet the group's demands, which were not specified.

Read more on:    al-qaeda  |  pierre korkie  |  yemen  |  abductions

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