File picture: Paballo Thekiso

Johannesburg - A memorial service will be held this week for South African Pierre Korkie, who was killed in a failed rescue mission in Yemen, his family said.

“Later in this week a memorial service will be held in Bloemfontein and a private burial service,” Korkie's wife Yolande said in a statement.

“Pierre will be returned to us as he saw in a vision, we will spend time with him saying goodbye and reaching for some sort of closure.”

The date and details of the memorial have not yet been released.

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

Korkie and American photographer Luke Somers, who were being held hostage by Al-Qaeda militants in Yemen, were killed in the early hours of Saturday when US special forces attempted to rescue them.

The Gift of the Givers foundation, who helped in negotiating with Al-Qaeda, said Korkie died a day before he was due to be released following a negotiated deal.

In a White House statement on Saturday, United States President Barack Obama said the rescue operation was necessary as Somers' life was in imminent danger.

He cited a video released by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) on Thursday threatening to kill Somers within 72 hours.

“...As soon as there was reliable intelligence and an operational plan, I authorised a rescue attempt,” Obama said.