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S.A. government pays tribute to killed hostage

December 7, 2014

Authorities in South Africa have expressed their sadness over the death of Pierre Korkie in a failed rescue attempt in Yemen. US forces had tried to free Korkie and US journalist Luke Somers from their al Qaeda captors.

Südafrikaner Pierre Korkie bei Rettungsversuch durch US-Streitkräfte ums Leben gekommen
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/AP Photo/Korkie Family

South Africa's government on Sunday responded to the death of Pierre Korkie, issuing a statement saying it had also undertaken numerous attempts to secure their citizen's release from al Qaeda kidnappers. They did not elaborate on what those attempts were.

"We are therefore saddened that the kidnapping ended in the tragic death of Mr. Korkie, a man innocent of any crime," the government said, adding "The South African government sends deepest condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Korkie for their loss.

Korkie, a 56-year-old teacher, and 33-year-old British-born US citizen Luke Somers, a photojournalist, were found alive but gravely wounded by American special forces during Saturday's raid on al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). They died shortly afterwards. The United States has called their killings "murder."

According to unnamed US officials, a firefight ensued when the rescuers were spotted by militants about 100 meters from the compound, in the Shabwa province.

The rescue attempt followed US drone strikes in the area. Yemeni security officials on Sunday said 10 al Qaeda militants were also killed during the raid.


Pierre Korkie was kidnapped in May 2013 in the Yemeni city of Taiz along with his wife Yolande, who was released in January this year. According to South African aid organization Gift of the Givers, he was due to be released Sunday following long-term negotiations facilitated by the charity with local tribal members.

US President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said they authorized the raid because Somers' life was in imminent danger. AQAP had on Thursday threatened to kill him in three days if unspecified demands were not met. US forces had made another attempt to rescue Somers a fortnight before.

On local television, South African government spokesman Nelson Kgwete said his country did not want to assign blame to the US for Korkie's death.

"We recognize that this was an attempt to secure the freedom of Mr. Korkie and the hostages who had been kept in captivity."

Korkie's body is due to arrive in South Africa on Monday.

se/bw (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)