Cape Town - Bloemfontein couple Pierre and Yolande Korkie are still being held by as yet unidentified captors in Yemen, as diplomats continue efforts to negotiate their release.

The Korkies moved to Yemen four years ago to teach English. Pierre Korkie was a teacher at Grey College in Bloemfontein and Yolande a preprimary teacher. The couple have two children.

Former Grey College headmaster Johan Volsteedt on Friday confirmed Pierre Korkie had taught at the school.

“They left about four years ago. Pierre obviously first spent a few months sorting out things here in South Africa and then they moved to Yemen,” Volsteedt said.

“They were on their way back to South Africa to attend Pierre’s father’s funeral when they were abducted.”

On Thursday, a Yemeni lawmaker denied involvement in the abduction of the couple in the city of Taiz after authorities accused him of orchestrating the kidnapping to pressure authorities to give him a disputed piece of land.

Abdel-Hamid el-Batra described accusations as “baseless” and said authorities were trying to cover up their failure to protect foreigners.

Abductions are not rare in Yemen, but Monday’s kidnapping of foreigners was unusual in its circumstances and was the first in Taiz.

Police said they received a call from associates of el-Batra saying he organised the kidnapping, pledging to hand over the foreigners in exchange for the land.

Police also freed five men arrested yesterday when they were found to be in possession of a car used in the abduction, a spokesman for the South African Department of International Relations and Co-operation said. He did not know why they were released.

There had been no further developments, said Clayson Monyela, deputy director of the department.

Cape Argus