Freed Qaeda hostage pleads for husband's release

16th January 2014, Comments 0 comments

A South African woman freed by Al-Qaeda last week after nine months in captivity appealed Thursday for her husband's release, after negotiations with the captors collapsed.

Yolande Korkie, 43, launched the appeal on the eve of a deadline issued by Al-Qaeda to pay a $3 million (2.2 million euro) ransom or risk him being executed.

"We are asking you Al-Qaeda, show mercy, show tolerance and forgiveness, please, release Pierre," an emotional Korkie told a news conference in Johannesburg.

The couple was seized on May 27 last year in Yemen, where the 56-year-old husband was an English teacher.

They had lived in Yemen for four years, along with their two teenage children.

In an emotionally charged plea, she invoked the legacy of South Africa's late leader Nelson Mandela.

"We are so proud to be South Africans, the example of president Nelson Mandela is an example of forgiveness and tolerance which have inspired us.

"South Africa and Yemen are not wealthy countries."

Yolande Korkie was freed on Friday following lengthy negotiations led by a South African charity, the Gift of the Givers Foundation.

But talks to release Pierre Korkie, are "deadlocked", said the foundation's chairman Imtiaz Sooliman.

The hostage-takers told Korkie that if she failed to raise the ransom by the Friday deadline "we will give Pierre's head to you in a box", according to Sooliman.

The woman was freed in the southern region of Abyan, more than 200 kilometres (125 miles) from the central city of Taiz where the couple was kidnapped.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, considered by Washington as the most dangerous branch of the jihadist network, remains active in parts of Abyan, despite several military campaigns.

Security officials said in May that the couple was seized outside their hotel by gunmen loyal to a local chief, over a land dispute with the authorities.

But Korkie said her husband was teaching English in Yemen.

Although kidnappings of foreigners in Yemen are frequent, Taiz -- one of the country's biggest cities -- has not been the scene of hostage-taking.

Hundreds of people have been abducted in Yemen in the past 15 years, nearly all of whom have been freed unharmed.

Most kidnappings of foreigners are carried out by members of Yemen's powerful tribes who use them as bargaining chips in disputes with the central government.

© 2014 AFP

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