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Korkie not among freed hostages

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Kidnapped South African Pierre Korkie was not among the hostages freed by Yemeni troops, the Gift of the Givers said on Tuesday.

“We have received confirmation from credible sources that the hostage freed is not Pierre but an American citizen who is now already in the US Embassy,” Gift of the Givers founder Imtiaz Sooliman said in a statement.

“Our efforts to release Pierre continue. It has been a tough and trying year especially for [his wife] Yolande and her children but we remain optimistic for a positive outcome.”

Agence France Presse (AFP) earlier reported that Yemeni troops on Tuesday freed eight hostages, including a foreigner, from a group of Al-Qaeda militants who were killed in a dawn raid. Military officials said an American soldier and eight others were freed.

The seven kidnappers were killed in the operation.

Korkie and his wife Yolande were kidnapped by the militants in Taiz, Yemen, in May last year. Yolande was released on January 10 and returned to South Africa on January 13. The Gift of the Givers helped negotiate her release.

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

The kidnappers demanded US3 million (about R32.5m) in exchange for Korkie’s safe return.

The foundation had tried to make contact with Al-Qaeda through international media and circulated an interview with their office manager in Yemen, Anas al-Hamati.

Al-Hamati was forced to leave Yemen at the end of January for his own safety after Al-Qaeda accused him of stealing the ransom money.

Tribal leaders in Yemen then took over the talks with Al-Qaeda.

On February 25, tribal leaders found out that Korkie was still alive but in bad health. Since then no more information was available on his condition.

Korkie was, however, spotted three times, according to Sooliman.

He was first seen in April in the company of a Sierra Leone hostage being moved from the Abyan province to the Albaydah province.

Korkie was sighted a second time on May 28 between Albaydah and Marib.

In June, he was spotted between Marib and the Shabwa province. SAPA

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