‘We were so close’

2014-12-08 00:00

JUST hours before Pierre Korkie was killed, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman told his office manager in Yemen that he feared the worst.

“I was speaking to him on Friday and I told him that I had a feeling that the Americans might go in and try to save their hostages and if Korkie was there in the same place, he might be killed.

“And just as we had feared, it happened,” said the exhausted sounding Sooliman.

Sooliman is the founder of the humanitarian organisation Gift of the Givers.

He has been working hard for the past year to bring Korkie safely back to South Africa. Korkie was killed this past weekend as American commandos tried to rescue U.S. photographer Luke Somers, who was also killed in the failed operation.

Korkie and wife Yolande were taken hostage in Taiz, Yemen, in May 2013.

It had been 11 months since Yolande had contact with Pierre — she had been freed after negotiations by Anas Al-Hamati from Gift of the Givers, on January 10 this year.

Sooliman said when he received the news of the death he could not believe it. “They [kidnappers] had agreed to release him … at first I had calls from some family members and then I had a call from the government and then I knew for sure that it was true.”

He said when he called his associates who had been instrumental in trying to secure Korkie’s release in Yemen, they too could not believe it. “They said I was confused … that he could not be dead.”

He said it was hard to accept what happened considering they were so close but he knew that situations in a war zone are unpredictable.

“I have been in many war situations and I knew that things can change quickly,” Sooliman said.

Sooliman added it was difficult for those involved, especially for Korkie’s wife. “I had told her in the morning that the wait is almost over and at eight in the evening she got a call.

“For the past 11 months we have been working hard on this, there are people who risked their lives to help. My office manager in Yemen and the tribal leaders there, they risked their lives because I asked them to,” said Sooliman.

“The tribal leaders there said because of the work that we do there, they will do this [negotiate] for South Africa,” he continued.

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