Korkie and Somers rescue attempt was necessary – Obama

2014-12-06 16:38

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The US and South Africa were today mourning the loss of two hostages killed in a failed rescue mission in Yemen.

South African Pierre Korkie and American photographer Luke Somers – both of whom were being held hostage by al-Qaeda militants – were killed this morning when US Special Forces tried to rescue them.

In a White House statement, US President Barack Obama said the mission was necessary as Somers’ life was in danger. He cited a video released by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (Aqap) on Thursday threatening to kill Somers within 72 hours.

“As soon as there was reliable intelligence and an operational plan, I authorised a rescue attempt,” Obama said.

Meanwhile, South African aid group Gift of the Givers said today that Korkie was due to be released following an agreement with the militants on November 26.

“That was to happen tomorrow,” said the group’s founder Imtiaz Sooliman.

“Alas, the events of this morning put an end to 11 months of unlimited attempts to bring Pierre home safely.”

Gift of the Givers said no one was to blame for the incident, as there was probably pressure on the US government to rescue its citizen.

“You can’t blame anybody for this. You can’t accuse or blame them. It’s just unfortunate that it happened,” said Sooliman.

The department of international relations declined to comment on the matter.

Condolences streamed in following the news.

Athlete Zola Budd, who was once coached by Korkie, was devastated, said her manager Ray de Vries.

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

On the You Can Help Release Pierre Korkie Facebook page, Denise Jooste wrote in Afrikaans: “Most sincere condolences to the family of Pierre Korkie on his passing.”

On the same page, Leni Blome said: “So unnecessary. Good luck to his loved ones.”

Korkie and his wife, Yolande, were kidnapped by the militants in Ta’izz, Yemen, in May last year. Yolande was released on January 10 and returned to South Africa on January 13.

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 $3?million (about R34?million) in exchange for Korkie’s safe return but the operation failed when the money went missing.

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

Obama said Somers wanted to use his photographic images to convey the lives of Yemenis to outsiders, and had gone to the country “in peace, and was held against his will and threatened by a despicable terrorist organisation”.

“The callous disregard for Luke’s life is more proof of the depths of Aqap’s depravity, and further reason why the world must never cease in seeking to defeat their evil ideology,” he said.

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