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‘Negotiation could have saved hostages’

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An Iranian journalist has lambasted the anti-terrorism legislation of the United States and South Africa, suggesting that the respective country’s outright refusal to negotiate was at fault for the unfortunate deaths of UK journalist, Luke Somers, and South African educator, Pierre Korkie. Both were killed by al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen over the weekend, following a bungled rescue operation by U.S forces and Yemeni Special Forces.

Local humanitarian agency Gift of the Givers (GOTG) confirmed that it had struck a deal with Al-Qaeda for Korkie to be released on Sunday. The failed rescue attempt came merely a day before his scheduled release.

Whilst the US has condemned the ‘barbaric’ killing of the duo, concerns have been raised over the timing of its military operation. Iranian born writer and journalist, Arash Azizi, said that whilst there was no doubt that Al-Qaeda was responsible for the death of the two hostages, the US’ actions came across as extremely arrogant. He was particularly critical of US secretary of defense, Chuck Hagel’s declaration that it would not seek a review of its policy in dealing with radical groups.

“It is about time the US policy and the type of operations it does when it comes to hostage taking be reviewed. This is so we can reach a better understanding of what the best practices available are when it comes to securing the release of hostages,” he told VOC Drivetime.

In a bid to defend its actions, the US has suggested that it was unaware of any other hostages being held captive at the time the operation was launched. But Azizi said it was unimaginable that with the levels of classified information available to the state, that they would have been unaware of Korkie’s presence.

The inopportune timing of the rescue attempt has also raised questions as to whether the US may have attempted to hamper GOTG’s operation, for fear of any ransom being paid to Al-Qaeda.

Addressing the question of ransom payment, Azizi said it was imperative that more funds were not channeled towards groups such as Al-Qaeda.

“What is quite clear is that independent attempts to raise money and pay these people to achieve the release, without informing government, it is a risky affair,” he said.

Instead, he called for alternative and more flexible policies on the part of governments that would allow for negotiations, but at the same time bar any payment of ransom to such groups. For this, cooperation was needed amongst all governments.

“The loved ones of the people involved also have to think about the broader consequences. When you give money to the terrorists you are strengthening and building these organizations,” he stressed. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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