Silence ahead of Korkie deadline

Johannesburg - Four days before al-Qaeda's ransom payment deadline, communication has been lost with the kidnappers of South African Pierre Korkie, the Gift of the Givers said on Tuesday.

“We have no indication of Pierre's state of health and no proof of life at this stage; and to complicate matters further we've lost all communication with al-Qaeda for eight days now,” the aid organisation's Imtiaz Sooliman said in a statement.

South African Pierre Korkie is being held by al-Qaeda members in Yemen. File picture: Supplied. Credit: Supplied

“This has been the longest and most worrying period of silence in talks with them.”

Sooliman said there was no way to initiate contact with al-Qaeda as they continually changed the sim cards in their phones.

Gift of the Givers' negotiator Anas al-Hamati and his family had to flee Yemen after negotiations soured. The kidnappers had accused him of keeping the ransom money for himself. The family left Yemen in late January and went to Dubai.

Korkie's kidnappers refused to accept that the SA government was not willing to pay the R32.5 million ransom.

Korkie, a teacher, and his relief worker wife Yolande were kidnapped by al-Qaeda militants in Taiz, Yemen, in May. Yolande Korkie was released and returned to South Africa on January 13.

Al-Hamati had been facilitating the negotiations. The last face-to-face talks were held on January 18.

Sooliman said there had been other disturbing developments.

“In the capital Sana'a, a German citizen was taken hostage over the weekend and in Hadramout province 20 Yemeni soldiers have been killed by al-Qaeda,” he said.

“We are not sure if these developments have delayed the communication process or if it is still related to their erroneous perception that ransom money was brought for them by the South African government and not handed over to them by Anas.”

Sooliman said they were hoping for a call from the kidnappers so they could clarify the misunderstanding about the ransom and determine if Korkie was still alive.

“Other than that all we can do is pray for now and hope for the best,” he said. - Sapa