Last updated: 18 January, 2014

South African hostage still alive in Yemen

A South African teacher held hostage in Yemen, whose kidnappers had threatened to kill him, is still alive but in poor health, an organisation working to free him said Saturday.

A deadline to pay $3 million (2.2 million euros) in ransom to free 56-year-old Pierre Korkie expired on Friday, but a Yemeni mediator confirmed that it has now been extended for three weeks.

Korkie was abducted along with his wife in May in the city of Taiz by members of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who threatened to kill him if the ransom was not paid by Friday.

The couple had lived and worked in Yemen for four years.

“They (the kidnappers) said he’s still alive, and we will stop the execution,” said Imtiaz Sooliman, president of the Gift of the Givers charity.

Sooliman said the kidnappers themselves had said Korkie was unwell and had agreed to extend their deadline by three weeks.

Mediator Anas al-Hamati confirmed that to AFP on Saturday, saying the kidnappers “have allowed an additional period of three weeks to reach an agreement on the $3 million ransom they are demanding.”

Hamati also said Korkie was in poor health, saying “he was already suffering from chronic illnesses before he was seized”.

The mediator had helped secure the release of Korkie’s wife Yolande on January 10.

She has since returned to South Africa to fight for his release, and the South African government sent its deputy foreign minister to Yemen on Friday to try to help free her husband.

Hundreds of people have been abducted in Yemen in the past 15 years, nearly all of whom have been freed unharmed. The hostages are used as bargaining chips in disputes with the central government.