Pierre Korkie would have been released Sunday by his Yemeni kidnappers had it not been for a botched American Special Services-led rescue mission to free photo-journalist Luke Somers. But Gift of the Givers founder, and pivotal negotiator in Korkie’s release, Imtiaz Sooliman, says Korkie survived as long as he did because he was not an American.
Al-Qaeda in Yemen earlier this week posted a video suggesting that Somers would be executed imminently, the rescue mission that both Korkie and the journalist were in killed came as a response to this message. Sooliman says Korkie had room for negotiation because he was a South African.
“The South African government is not regarded as an enemy to al-Qaeda, but again [same as the US] our government does not negotiate with terrorists. But we [GOTG] are not a political entity, we are an NGO; we have a track record of serving Yemeni people and most of the al-Qaeda operatives there are Yemeni people. They saw the good we did in their country, and it was on that basis that they released Yolande the first time,” Sooliman said on Sunday.
Korkie’s wife Yolande had been prepared for news of her husband’s death. Earlier this year she donned a head-scarf and pleaded with his captors to release him. But, Sooliman said Yolande had been subject to his captors’ conditions and was aware Korkie may not make it out alive.
“The reality is, even up until the last point on Friday evening, I still believed he was not out until he is [home]. And on Friday night I had the feeling that he won’t make it; Yolande and I spoke about it many times. On many occasions she said if Pierre is killed, she would accept it and not hold anyone else responsible. She was prepared, she had also been in captivity and seen what happens to the people over a period of time.”
Department of International Relations and Co-operation spokesperson Nelson Kgwete on Sunday told other news publications DIRCO had not been aware of Korkie’s imminent release. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told AFP that both Korkie and Somers were killed by their captors in the midst of the operation. SAPA