As reports emerge that it was Al-Qaeda militants who abducted a South African couple two weeks ago in Yemen, The Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) says it continues efforts to secure the release of the two.
The pair, identified as Pierre and Yolande Korkie from Bloemfontein, were kidnapped by gunmen outside a hotel in the town of Taiz, about 250km south from the capital Sanaa, in May.
â€œIt’s almost confirmed that the two South Africans are now held by Al-Qaeda men,” the top security official told AFP on 8 June.
He added that the kidnappers had taken the hostages to the mountainous region of Hazm al-Udain, 50 kilometres northeast of Taiz. â€œSecurity forces have tracked them but the results are so far not very encouraging,” he said.
However, Dirco said on 9 June 2013, that the whereabouts of the couple were still unknown.
Speaking at a a media briefing, International Relations Minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said, “What is very critical for us is that we remain in exchange of information with the government there [in Yemen] and the family in South Africa.
“We’ve gone through similar challenges in the past, we will use the same methodologies. [The matter is] very sensitive and you don’t go there and become overzealous, endangering the lives of people that you are trying to rescue.”
She did not give any detailed update on the progress of South African diplomats, who headed to Yemen to try to secure the pair’s release, other than saying that South Africa’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia was in daily meetings with Yemeni authorities to negotiate the release.
The couple, initially thought to be tourists mistaken for Americans or Europeans, were allegedly involved in the development of a hotel in the city of Taiz. Reportedly, a dispute between developers and the landlord occurred shortly before the kidnapping.
So far, five people were arrested in connection with the case, but all were later released.
On Monday, Yemeni troops detained a local Al-Qaeda leader in a raid on his hideout in the eastern Yemen, state news agency Saba informed.
Al-Qaeda fighters have been regrouping in areas of Hadramawt since June 2012 after being forced out of the southern province of Abyan, by Yemeni troops backed by the US.
Yemen is viewed by the US as one of Al-Qaeda ‘hot-spots.’ Neighbouring Saudi Arabia, world’s leading oil exporter, is also worried about the country’s stability. Yemen is a fragile state facing by many socio-economic problems such as high levels of poverty and unemployment, and a low literacy rate.