Korkie worse off after visit

2014-01-31 00:00

A HIGHLY-PUBLICISED visit to Yemen by a South African government delegation from was probably the main reason why negotiations with Al-Qaeda terrorists for the release of Pierre Korkie had reached a dead end.

South Africa’s Deputy Minister of International Relations and Co-operation, Ebrahim Ebrahim, visited Yemen over the weekend on January 19 to 21 to meet with the heads of various Yemeni departments on the abduction issue.

In a statement afterwards, Ebrahim said kidnapping was sadly common in Yemen and that eight other foreign hostages were currently held in rural areas of Yemen that were not under government control.

Ebrahim also made an appeal to the abductors through Yemeni television to show mercy to Korkie, saying amongst other things, that: “Pierre Korkie is gravely ill and desperately needs medical attention. His life is in danger. Islam enjoins us to show mercy and forbids us from harming the sick, even in war. I beg those who are holding him to release him without delay.”

Ebrahim added that South Africa was a developing country and the Korkies are not a rich family. “I appeal to you to co-operate with all initiatives so that Pierre Korkie can come home for the treatment he needs to save his life and be reunited with his family.”

Anas al-Hamati yesterday told sister paper Beeld from Dubai that after the visit and appeal by South African government delegation, the negotiators for the abductors were very angry with him.

He had to flee to Dubai with his wife and weeks-old daughter after he had received death threats. “I did not for a moment think [the threats] are not serious.”

He said he had made first contact with the terror group as a representative of Gift of the Givers in Yemen about a month ago. “I knew about the Korkies’ abduction last year and I left my name and number whenever I worked in the rural areas in case someone had news on the couple.

“Next I got a call from the abductors and that was how we started negotiating until they released Yolandé.

“Our talks was always based on trust. I told them my job on Earth was to help people — not to help any grouping. I stayed on the humanitarian angle and begged them until they released Yolandé.

“They had my trust and whenever they got aggressive I told them they must remember I am just a man trying to do good, without any money or power.

“I think the South African government should not have come to interfere here. These people were not part of the negotiations — there is not even a South African diplomatic mission in Yemen.

“That’s where everything went wrong. The terror group suddenly suspected I had stolen the ransom money which the South Africans allegedly brought. Suddenly they were suspicious of everything.”

He said while the negotiators were adamant the deadline for the payment of more than R30 million was still Saturday next week, on February 8, they had threatened to abduct him as well.

“Now I cannot go back, because I am a marked man. And the saddest part is that we were well on our way to negotiate for Pierre’s release.

“Now I don’t know what will happen next. No one else has contact with them,” Al-Hamati said.

Mark Courtney, an international hostage negotiator from the Western Cape, confirmed that the original strategy must never be deviated from during hostage negotiations. “No one else must interfere, because it will result in precisely what has happened now. Things must also be kept out of the public eye. As soon as it becomes news, it changes the abductors’ motivation.”

Courtney said while Ebrahim’s visit was in good faith Korkie was “now in a worse position than before”.

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