Korkie killed in botched US rescue mission

By admin
07 December 2014

The family of South African teacher Pierre Korkie was devastated to hear he was killed in a botched rescue mission in Yemen, the Gift of the Givers said on Saturday.

"We are devastated but I know all of you are devastated," Korkie's wife Yolande said in a text message to the organisation's founder Imtiaz Sooliman.

'We are devastated but I know all of you are devastated'

She was referring to the organisation's efforts in negotiating Korkie's release. He was being held hostage by Al-Qaeda militants.

Sooliman was addressing reporters in Johannesburg after news of Korkie's death emerged.

Sooliman said he had not contacted Yolande after hearing the news.

"I haven't called her yet. I can't. Not in her state of mind," he said shortly before receiving the message from her.

The American embassy had informed a South African negotiator that it had photographic evidence that Korkie had been killed.

Korkie and American photographer Luke Somers were killed in the early hours of Saturday during a rescue operation carried out by United States Special Forces in Yemen.

Sooliman said the militants had intended on releasing Korkie on Sunday, while US president Barack Obama said Somers' life was in "imminent danger".

Korkie and his wife were kidnapped in Taiz, Yemen, in May last year.

Yolande was released on January 10 and returned to South Africa on January 13. The Gift of the Givers had 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 US3 million (about R32.5m) in exchange for Korkie's safe return.

Sooliman said in October, the militants wavered the ransom fee but a facilitation fee was still needed for his release. The money had been raised by Korkie's family and their friends.

Since the kidnapping , the foundation had tried to make contact with Al-Qaeda through international media and circulated an interview with their office manager in Yemen, Anas al-Hamati.

Al-Hamati was forced to leave Yemen at the end of January for his own safety after Al-Qaeda accused him of stealing the ransom money.

Tribal leaders in Yemen then took over the talks with Al-Qaeda.

On February 25, tribal leaders found out that Korkie was still alive but in bad health. Since then no more information was available on his condition.

Korkie was, however, spotted three times.

Sooliman said they still needed to see the body.

"The South African police negotiator in Yemen said they had pictures of Korkie's body ... But we want to see his body," he said.

The Sunday Times quoted department of international relations spokesman Nelson Kgwete as saying that US forces had Korkie's body at a secret location in Yemen.

"We will make arrangements to bring his body home."

He said the claim that Korkie's release was imminent was "just a rumour".

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