Gift of the Givers say no contact with Yemen kidnappers

Yolande Korkie (right). (Gallo)

Yolande Korkie (right). (Gallo)

There was no word from the Yemen kidnappers of South African Pierre Korkie by Friday afternoon, said disaster relief organisation Gift of the Givers Foundation.

"We are as anxious as you awaiting some kind of communication from the captors, but for now there has been a complete blackout on information," foundation head Imtiaz Sooliman said.

"In fact from Wednesday, there has been a substantial reduction in bilateral communication between us and the captors. On that day we spoke to them for about three minutes only."

He said all previous communication had been several hours per day either through the phone, face-to-face, or both.

Korkie's kidnappers gave his family until Friday to pay a ransom of $3-million (about R32.5-million) in exchange for his safe return.

Korkie and his wife Yolande were kidnapped by al-Qaeda militants in Taiz, Yemen, in May. She was released and returned to South Africa on Monday. The Gift of the Givers Foundation helped negotiate Yolande Korkie's release.

An extra month 
Sooliman said on Wednesday they had asked the kidnappers for an extra month to meet their ransom demand, but had received no response. 

"On Thursday again there was no communication for the whole day." Later, they again contacted Korkie's captors to make it "very clear" that while there might be an extension of time, there was no way it was possible to raise $3-million, irrespective of how many months they may be given.

"We didn't want to create the expectancy that the extension of time will automatically result in the delivery of $3-million," he said.

"When we gave that clarification it was the first time in 11 days that there was an ominous silence.
They didn't respond, comment, acknowledge or say anything. They just cut the call."

They tried for a second time, but the captors refused to answer the phone. "It was at that time that Anas al-Hamati, our office manager, was concerned about his own security. It was on Monday that they told him 'Since you don't have $3-million, maybe we should take you away'," Sooliman said.

"In the interest of Anas's security we moved him on Thursday night immediately after the phone call to an undisclosed secure location."

Those negotiating for Korkie's release remained positive. "In our calculation the eight-day deadline ends tomorrow [Saturday] at 6am, but on Monday they told us it was this Friday. No specific time was given," Sooliman said.

"We can only hope that Yolande's international call for 'a stay-in-execution' is acted upon by favourable decision makers. At this moment our hearts and prayers go out to the Korkie family." 

There could be no greater pain than not knowing the whereabouts of a loved one, and whether that loved one was alive or dead, Sooliman said.

"We request the continuous prayer from our countrymen for the Almighty's intervention in achieving a positive outcome with the unconditional release of Pierre Korkie," he said.

Earlier, the international relations department said Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim would travel to Yemen to consult with its government and other interested parties on the kidnapping.

Spokesperson Nelson Kgwete said Ebrahim was scheduled to leave for Yemen on Saturday. – Sapa

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