Last updated: 10 January, 2014

Yemen Al-Qaeda releases South Africa woman captive

Kidnappers from Al-Qaeda in Yemen released Friday a South African woman tourist who was taken hostage in May along with her husband, who temporarily remains captive, a mediator said.

“We have succeeded in securing the release of the wife. The husband will be set free in the next few days,” said Anas al-Hamati, adding that the “kidnappers were from Al-Qaeda.”

He did not say whether a ransom has been paid for the couple.

He did not give their identities, but South African media have named them as Yolande and Pierre Korkie.

Hamati told AFP by telephone that he was with the woman and approaching Sanaa.

They were travelling from the southern region of Abyan where the woman was released — more than 200 kilometres (124 miles) from the central city of Taiz where the couple was kidnapped.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, considered by Washington as the most dangerous branch of the jihadist network, remains active in parts of Abyan despite several military campaigns.

Security officials said in May the couple was seized outside their hotel by gunmen loyal to a local chief over a land dispute with the authorities.

The kidnappers came from the area of Janadiyah, some 35 kilometres (about 20 miles) east of Taiz, said one official.

They worked for a local chief who has had a long-running dispute with the authorities over a plot of land, he said, adding the tourists could be used for bargaining.

But there have been cases of kidnappers handing over their captives to Al-Qaeda militants, possibly for money.

Although kidnappings of foreigners in Yemen are frequent, Taiz — one of the country’s biggest cities — has not been the scene of hostage-taking.

Hundreds of people have been abducted in Yemen in the past 15 years, nearly all of whom have been freed unharmed.

Most kidnappings of foreigners are carried out by members of Yemen’s powerful tribes who use them as bargaining chips in disputes with the central government.

In May also, tribesmen in south Yemen freed three employees of the International Committee of the Red Cross, including a Swiss citizen and a Kenyan along with two Egyptian hostages.

The men were held for few days and were released following tribal mediation.