Yemen hostage mediators lose all communication with Qaeda
JOHANNESBURG - Negotiators working to secure the release of a South African man kidnapped in Yemen by Al-Qaeda said Tuesday they had lost contact with the group, just days before a ransom deadline.
"We are in a very difficult period concerning Pierre Korkie," said Imtiaz Sooliman, president of the Gift of the Givers charity organisation.
"We've lost all communication with Al-Qaeda for eight days now," he said, adding there was no indication whether the English teacher was still alive after being kidnapped in May.
Kidnappers are demanding $3 million (2.2 million euros) for his release before Saturday's deadline.
"This has been the longest and most worrying period of silence in talks with them," Sooliman said.
"There is no way we can initiate contact with them as they continually change sim cards."
The talks broke down last week after Korkie's captors accused one of the negotiating team of stealing ransom money, forcing him to flee the country.
The group believed that South Africa's deputy foreign minister Ebrahim Ebrahim, who had travelled to Yemen to appeal for Korkie's release, had brought the money, although this was denied by the South African government.
"Our only hope for Pierre now is for us to receive a call from the kidnappers where issues can be clarified regarding the misconception around the ransom they assumed was brought for them," Sooliman said in a statement.
Korkie was abducted along with his wife, Yolande, who was freed on January 10 with the help of the charity group.