Fearless and tenacious Anas Al-Hamati, who led attempts to secure the release of al-Qaeda captive, Pierre Korkie has recounted the tragic ending to the South African teacher’s life. Korkie was killed during a failed attempt by U.S. forces to free British-born photojournalist, Luke Sommers who was also being held by the radical group in Yemen; the incident resulting in the death of both hostages.
Al-Hamati, the Gift of the Giver’s (GOTG) negotiator in Yemen, was successful in securing the unconditional release of Korkie’s wife, Yolande several months prior to the incident. But a shift to a more aggressive tone on the part of al-Qaeda spurred GOTG to pull al-Hamati and his family out of the country for their own safety.
It has since emerged that at the time of the U.S. military operation negotiations for Korkie’s release were at an extremely advanced stage, with logistics in place to transport him out of the country.
“We worked for 11 months on negotiations just for this. We were waiting for just a few more hours, but unfortunately things happened out of my control,” Al-Hamati told VOC Drivetime.
But despite being close to reaching a deal with the Al Qaeda insurgents, he was determined not to level any blame on the US for attempting to free one of their own, only suggesting that he would have preferred a more peaceful manner of resolution.
“I want to provide that Yemeni’s are not kidnappers. It’s just a few people who are affected by bad ideologies and coming from outside Yemen. That’s why we have militant groups like Al-Qaeda and other militant groups,” he said.
Al-Hamati’s own involvement with GOTG started in 2012 when, amid an escalating hunger crisis the relief group opted to open up office in one of the Middle East’s poorest region, giving him the reigns. Since then GOTG has been extremely active in humanitarian efforts in the now civil war-stricken state, providing relief to thousands.
“Until now we have received (delivered) more than 100 containers to Yemen, and we’ve made more than six water wells. More than 15 000 families have benefited from all our projects in Yemen,” he said, indicating the scale of GOTG’s operations in the country.
Despite the current state of conflict, Al-Hamati said the organisation were continuing relief operations in the country. From a personal standing however, Al-Hamati revealed that he would not continue with GOTG in order to avoid any retaliation directed at the relief agency’s Yemen warehouse, in response to the failed Korkie negotiations.
In light of the current situation, he stressed that the war-hit gulf state was in need of global support now more than ever, with 80% of Yemenis in need of urgent aid.
“There is now work, no electricity, no schools, and no clean water. Can you imagine the situation there? There are people dying from simple diseases because we don’t have resources to cover their needs,” he stressed.
Al-Hamati is expected to spend the next few months in South Africa engaging with fellow negotiators on his work. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)