Body of S.African hostage killed in Yemen is flown home

8th December 2014, Comments 0 comments

The family of a South African hostage killed during a failed US rescue raid in Yemen hours before he was to be released, said they have chosen to forgive as his body was flown home Monday.

Pierre Korkie, 57, was seized along with his wife Yolande in May 2013 in Yemen's second city of Taiz by members of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Yolande was released in January following mediation by the Gift of the Givers charity, which said Pierre's release was only hours away when US troops launched an operation to free an American captive held by the same militants.

Both Korkie and the US captive, photojournalist Luke Somers, were killed by the militants during the raid on Saturday.

Details about the repatriation were not disclosed after the family requested a low-key affair, said a spokesman from South Africa's department of international relations and cooperation.

"We will announce in a brief statement when the body has arrived in the country," said Nelson Kgwete. "It will be taken for an autopsy and then handed to the family for burial."

In a statement Sunday, Korkie's widow Yolande said the family had chosen to approach the tragedy with forgiveness.

"Today we choose to forgive. We choose to love. We choose to rejoice in the memories of Pierre and keep him alive in our hearts," they said.

- 'Overwhelming pain' -

"Even though the pain is overwhelming us right now, we choose to believe that this too shall pass."

The South African government said it had undertaken "numerous initiatives" to secure Korkie's release.

"We are therefore saddened that the kidnapping ended in the tragic death of Mr Korkie, a man innocent of any crime," it said in a statement Sunday.

But the official opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, said the government should "urgently engage with American representatives to get to the bottom of the circumstances that led to Mr Korkie's death."

Korkie's family said he was held for 558 days, during which they repeatedly pleaded for his release and expressed concern about his health, saying he was suffering from a hernia and had gone deaf while in captivity.

"Although we were separated in the flesh after 228 days when I was released, I remained with him in spirit until the end," said Yolande.

The couple from the South African city of Bloemfontein had worked as teachers in Yemen for four years at the time of their capture.

Gift of the Givers said that after months of negotiations, final arrangements had been made to bring Korkie home on Sunday.

"Three days ago we told her (Yolande), 'Pierre will be home for Christmas,'" the charity said in a statement. "We certainly did not mean it in the manner it has unfolded."

Korkie's captors had demanded a ransom of $3 million (2.2 million euros).


© 2014 AFP

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