Plea to al-Qaeda: SA hostage is ill ... why don’t you just let him go?

2014-01-16 16:16

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The family of the South African man held by al-Qaeda in Yemen has appealed for his release as the deadline for the payment of the ransom for his freedom looms.

Al-Qaeda had given teacher Pierre Korkie’s family eight days to gather $3 million (over R30 million) in ransom, failing which it would send his head to his wife, Yolande, in a box. The deadline expires in less than 48 hours.

Yolande, who spent nine months as a hostage with her husband of 20 years in Yemen, asked al-Qaeda to show mercy to her sickly husband.

She appealed for his freedom this afternoon.

“I am asking you to release my husband,” said Yolande, who spoke emotionally with a soft voice in English and Afrikaans.

The captors mistook the Bloemfontein couple for Americans, and apparently did not know that there were white South Africans. Charity organisation Gift of the Givers successfully negotiated Yolande’s release last week.

Asked for a message for her husband, Yolande said: “From me and the children, he is a hero. We are so proud of you.”

She said al-Qaeda had treated them with kindness and were never rude when she was still a hostage.

The mother of two is receiving help from friends and Gift of the Givers.

Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman said the talks for the release of the 56-year-old teacher had deadlocked. Sooliman said he called the organisation on Wednesday night asking for a one-month extension, saying it was not feasible for Yolande to raise the ransom in such as short space of time after having spent nine months as the group’s hostage.

“I said there is no merit in hurting him. He is an old man, he is ill ... why don’t you just let him go?” said Sooliman.

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