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Korkie’s teary reunion with negotiator

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Former al-Qaeda captive Yolande Korkie had an emotional reunion in Bloemfontein at the weekend with the Gift of the Givers’ negotiator Anas al-Hamati, who helped secure her release in Yemen.

“Yolande has met her negotiator for the first time,” said Gift of the Givers event co-ordinator Emily Thomas.

“When they met it was quite emotional. She was grateful to him… He also felt that he failed because he could not get [her husband] Pierre released.”

Bloemfontein teacher Pierre Korkie and his wife Yolande were kidnapped by al-Qaeda militants in Taiz, Yemen, in May 2013.

She was released eight months later and returned to South Africa as Gift of the Givers continued to negotiate her husband’s release.

Ransom money

Korkie and American photographer Luke Somers were, however, killed during an attempt by the US special forces to free them from their al-Qaeda captors on December 6 2014.

At the time, al-Hamati had already secured a deal with al-Qaeda for Korkie’s release. The kidnappers demanded about R32.5m in exchange for Korkie’s safe return.

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

News24 reported at the time that 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.

Hunger and suffering

Thomas said Yolande had taken al-Hamati to her house to meet her teenage children.

“They could talk about their experiences… She is in the process of writing a book.”

Al-Hamati is in South Africa for six months with his wife and two young children. She said al-Hamati wanted to use his time in the country to highlight the plight in Yemen: “Their hunger and their suffering… It’s still just in crisis.”

After his time in South Africa, Al-Hamati was determined to return and help in Yemen again, on behalf of Gift of the Givers.

Meanwhile, Yolande Korkie and her children were coping and moving forward, Thomas said. “They still miss Pierre a lot. They would have liked things to be different…”

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