Yemen kidnappers make contact with Gift of the Givers

The al-Qaeda militants who kidnapped South African Pierre Korkie in Yemen made contact on Wednesday, The Gift of the Givers Foundation said.

"We received a text message from al-Qaeda about two hours ago asking where is the ransom money from the South African government," said Imtiaz Sooliman, head of the disaster relief organisation.

"According to their understanding, they quote Yemen media, [that] the South African government was coming to negotiate with them but note that no one approached them."

Sooliman said the foundation replied that the South African government, as well as all other governments, did not negotiate with kidnappers and did not pay ransoms. The kidnappers then replied that governments said that publicly but still paid "under the radar".

"We said maybe other governments but not us from Africa," said Sooliman.

"They spoke a few more words after which they sent us a picture of a bomb belt. They didn't threaten us in words, nor did they threaten Pierre."

The militants did not discuss negotiations around the ransom nor did they mention anything regarding the ransom deadline or Korkie's health. "I've instructed Anas to stay in Sana'a for the time being and not to engage in face-face talks for now," said Sooliman.

Anas al-Hamati is the foundation's office manager in Yemen who has been negotiating with the kidnappers.

Emotional appeal
Earlier on Wednesday, the international relations department said Deputy Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim made an emotional appeal on Yemeni television for Korkie's release. "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," said Ebrahim. 

"South Africa is 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."

The deputy minister made the appeal when he was in Yemen for consultations with that government, international relations spokesperson Nelson Kgwete said in a statement.

The al-Qaeda militants holding Korkie had threatened to execute him last Friday if they were not given $3-million (about R32.5-million) in exchange for his safe return.

After an initial silence, the kidnappers made contact, indicating that Korkie was still alive on Saturday. They gave a three-week extension to raise the ransom.

The couple were kidnapped in the city of Taiz in Yemen in May. Korkie's wife Yolande was held for seven months and after extensive negotiations she was released in January without a ransom. She returned home last week.

At a news conference in Johannesburg last week, Yolande begged al-Qaeda to release her husband. The couple have been married for 20 years.

At the time of the kidnapping, Korkie was a teacher in Yemen, while his wife did relief work in hospitals. – Sapa

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