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S.Africa seeks release of hostage in Yemen

Published on 17/01/2014

South Africa's deputy foreign minister is heading to Yemen to try to secure the release of a South African teacher kidnapped by Al-Qaeda militants last year, the government said Friday.

Pierre Korkie, 56, who teaches English, was abducted along with his wife last May in the Yemeni city of Taiz by members of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

His wife Yolande was released on January 10 and has since returned to South Africa where she has launched an emotional appeal for her husband’s freedom.

The couple had lived and worked in Yemen for four years.

The minister, Ebrahim Ebrahim, is going for “consultations with the government of Yemen and other relevant role players in the situation involving Mr Pierre Korkie,” the government said in a statement.

His kidnappers have asked for a ransom of $3 million (2.2 million euros) to be paid by Friday, which South African negotiators and Korkie’s family say they cannot afford.

“It is hoped that the visit by Deputy Minister Ebrahim to Yemen will result in Mr Korkie being released unharmed and as soon as possible,” said the government.

A South African charity, the Gift of the Givers Foundation, which has led negotiations for the release of the couple, said talks to get Pierre Korkie freed are “deadlocked”.

Hundreds of people have been abducted in Yemen in the past 15 years, nearly all of whom have been freed unharmed. The hostages are used as bargaining chips in disputes with the central government.