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Botched US Hostage Rescue Kills 13, Including Woman and Child; South African Hostage Was Within 24 Hours of Being Released to His Family


December 10, 2014
Daily Mail & Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com & Mohammed Ghobari and Mohammed Mukhashaf / Reuters & Agence France-Presse

Pierre Korkie, a South African teacher who was taken hostage by Al-Qaeda militants in Yemen more than a year ago, was killed Saturday in a failed rescue bid just a day before he was due to be released. A woman and a 10-year-old boy were among at least 11 people killed alongside two Western hostages when US-led forces fought Islamist militants in a failed rescue mission in Yemen.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/afp/article-2863751/S-African-hostage-Pierre-Korkie-killed-just-day-release.html

S. African Hostage Pierre Korkie, Killed Just Day before Release
Agence France-Presse & The Daily Mail

(December 6, 2014) -- Pierre Korkie, a South African teacher who was taken hostage by Al-Qaeda militants in Yemen more than a year ago, was killed Saturday in a failed rescue bid just a day before he was due to be released.

"We received with sadness the news that Pierre (Korkie) was killed in an attempt by American Special Forces, in the early hours of this morning, to free hostages in Yemen," said the Gift of the Givers charity.

The group, which had been negotiating Korkie's release, said he was mere hours from being released when US special forces launched their operation.
"The psychological and emotional devastation to (his wife) Yolande and her family will be compounded by the knowledge that Pierre was to be released by Al-Qaeda tomorrow," it said.

Luke Somers, an American photojournalist, was also killed in Saturday's failed raid by US forces in Yemen's southeastern Shabwa province.

Korkie, 57, was seized along with his wife in May 2013 in Yemen's second city of Taiz by members of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Yolande, 44, was released in January following mediation by Gift of the Givers, and was able to reunite with their two children -- a boy and a girl in their teens. The couple from the South African city of Bloemfontein had worked as teachers in Yemen for four years at the time of their capture.

Korkie's family repeatedly pleaded for his release and expressed concern about his health, saying he was suffering from a hernia and had gone deaf while in captivity. "A year has passed and my husband, Pierre, is still in captivity. He is gravely ill and could die from complications of his condition," said Yolande Korkie in an emotional video plea posted on YouTube in May.

Home for Christmas'
After numerous false dawns, the family was looking forward to being reunited on Sunday, the Gift of the Givers said. "A team of Abyan leaders met in Aden this morning and were preparing the final security and logistical arrangements, related to hostage release mechanisms, to bring Pierre to safety and freedom," the charity said.

"All logistical arrangements were in place to safely fly Pierre out of Yemen under diplomatic cover, then to meet with family members in a 'safe' country, fly to South Africa, and directly to hospital for total medical evaluation and appropriate intervention.

"It is even more tragic that the words we used in a conversation with Yolande at 5.59 this morning was 'the wait is almost over.' Three days ago we told her 'Pierre will be home for Christmas'. We certainly did not mean it in the manner it has unfolded."

Imtiaz Sooliman, head of the charity, claimed the US army intervened to prevent Al-Qaeda from decapitating an American hostage. He said he spoke Friday night to the charity's representative in Yemen about information that Al-Qaeda planned to execute a US hostage. "I said, that is my greatest fear... and that before they do it, American troops are going to attack and Pierre is going to die in the operation," Sooliman told a press conference in Johannesburg.

He said the Americans were probably under pressure from the families of hostages to take action. "No one can be blamed for that, it is a hostage-taking, a crisis situation and each one works for his interests," he said.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the hostages' captors killed both men during the raid. The State Department said it did not know the identity of the hostage being held along with Somers.

"We assessed that there were two hostages at this location, one of whom was Luke Somers. We did not know who the second hostage was," a senior State Department official said.

Korkie's captors had demanded a ransom of $3 million (2.2 million euros).



13 Killed in Second Failed US Hostage Rescue in Yemen
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com

(December 7, 2014) -- More information continues to emerge on the failed US hostage rescue operation, which sought to free journalist Luke Somers in Yemen. It is now reported that he and another hostage, South African teacher Pierre Korkie, were killed by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) during the raid.

They weren't the only ones, as the overnight raid left a total of 13 people dead, and while one of them was reportedly a local AQAP leader, the slain also included women and children.

This was the second raid attempting to free Somers in the past 10 days, after a previous raid similarly failed and led AQAP to announce their intention to execute him by week's end if they weren't paid a ransom.

Yemeni experts say they believe AQAP fully intended to ransom Somers, but that they were angered by the repeated US raids trying to recover him militarily. The first raid managed to free some other hostages, but officials blamed a barking dog for tipping off the militants to US presence.


Thirteen Killed in Failed US Hostage Rescue Bid in Yemen
Mohammed Ghobari and Mohammed Mukhashaf / Reuters

SANAA/ADEN (December 8, 2014) -- A woman, a 10-year-old boy and a local al Qaeda leader were among at least 11 people killed alongside two Western hostages when US-led forces fought Islamist militants in a failed rescue mission in Yemen, residents said on Sunday.

US Special Forces raided the village of Dafaar in Shabwa province, a militant stronghold in southern Yemen, shortly after midnight on Saturday, killing several members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). American journalist Luke Somers, 33, and South African teacher Pierre Korkie, 56, were shot and killed by their captors during the raid intended to free them, US officials said.

AQAP, formed in 2006 by the merger of the Yemeni and Saudi branches of the network, has for years been seen by Washington as one of the movement's most dangerous branches. Western governments fear advances by Shi'ite Muslim Houthi fighters with links to Iran have bolstered support among Yemeni Sunnis for AQAP, which has established itself in parts of Yemen, including Shabwa where the raid took place.

However, since Islamic State in Syria and Iraq began distributing films of its militants beheading Western hostages, the focus on AQAP, which has traditionally used hostage-taking as a way to raise funds, had diminished until now. At least two more hostages are being held by the group.

The Yemen-based group, loyal to the wider al Qaeda organisation founded by Osama bin Laden, has denounced Islamic State, but Western and Gulf sources say there may be operational connections between the two. "AQAP and Daesh (Islamic State) are essentially the same organisation but have different methods of execution and tactics," a senior Yemeni intelligence official said.

FREEDOM ATTEMPT
South Africa does not want to assign blame for Korkie's death, government spokesman Nelson Kgwete said on local television, when asked if Pretoria blamed the United States.

Korkie's wife, Yolande, who was released in January after being held with her husband, spoke of forgiveness. "So today we choose to forgive. We choose to love. We choose to rejoice in the memories of Pierre and keep him alive in our hearts," she said in a statement.

No ransom was paid for Korkie as his kidnappers eventually relented on an earlier demand for $3 million, Gift of the Givers, the relief group that had tried to secure his release, said. The group had expected Korkie to be freed on Sunday. The South African government said Korkie's body was expected in South Africa on Monday.

Apart from the woman and the boy, reports on social media feeds of known militants said an AQAP commander and two members of the group were killed. Six other members of the same tribe also died, the reports said, although they could not be immediately verified.

The commander, identified as Jamal Mubarak al-Hard al-Daghari al-Awlaki, appeared to be the same person as Mubarak al-Harad, named by the Yemen Defence Ministry on Saturday as the leader of an AQAP group. Several of those said by militants to have died were from the Daghari and Awlaki families, important tribes in Shabwa province. Yemen's government said on Saturday the hostages were being held in the house of a man named Saeed al-Daghari.

As Special Forces battled al Qaeda militants in the house, kidnappers in another building nearby shot the two hostages, a local man who identified himself as Jamal said. US officials have said the raid was carried out by US forces alone, but Yemen's government and local residents said Yemeni forces also participated.

"Before the gunshots were heard, very strong floodlights turned the night into daylight, and then we heard loud explosions," Jamal told Reuters. "The soldiers were calling on the house's inhabitants to surrender and the speaker was clearly a Yemeni soldier," he added.

Another witness, named Abdullah, said the Yemeni army had blocked access to the area before the raid began. "When the forces withdrew, we found lots of bloodstains, but did not know if those were of the soldiers or the hostages," Abdullah said.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said the operation, the second attempt to free Somers in 10 days, had only been approved because of information that the American's life was in imminent danger.

Abdel-Razaq al-Jamal, a Yemeni journalist who specializes in covering Islamist militants, said AQAP may have originally intended to ransom Somers as well, but appeared to have been angered by the earlier rescue attempt on Nov. 25.

"I don't think this marks a change in position by al Qaeda," Jamal told Reuters.

Additional reporting by Yara Bayoumy in Manama and Stella Mapenzauswa in Johannesburg; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Angus McDowall and Giles Elgood)

Thomson Reuters 2014. All rights reserved.



South African Hostage Pierre Korkie, Killed Just Day before Release
Agence France-Presse

(December 6, 2014) -- Pierre Korkie, a South African teacher who was taken hostage by Al-Qaeda militants in Yemen more than a year ago, was killed Saturday in a failed rescue bid just a day before he was due to be released.

"We received with sadness the news that Pierre (Korkie) was killed in an attempt by American Special Forces, in the early hours of this morning, to free hostages in Yemen," said the Gift of the Givers charity.

The group, which had been negotiating Korkie's release, said he was mere hours from being released when US special forces launched their operation.

"The psychological and emotional devastation to (his wife) Yolande and her family will be compounded by the knowledge that Pierre was to be released by Al-Qaeda tomorrow," it said. Luke Somers, an American photojournalist, was also killed in Saturday's failed raid by US forces in Yemen's southeastern Shabwa province.

Korkie, 57, was seized along with his wife in May 2013 in Yemen's second city of Taiz by members of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Yolande, 44, was released in January following mediation by Gift of the Givers, and was able to reunite with their two children -- a boy and a girl in their teens. The couple from the South African city of Bloemfontein had worked as teachers in Yemen for four years at the time of their capture.

Korkie's family repeatedly pleaded for his release and expressed concern about his health, saying he was suffering from a hernia and had gone deaf while in captivity.

"A year has passed and my husband, Pierre, is still in captivity. He is gravely ill and could die from complications of his condition," said Yolande Korkie in an emotional video plea posted on YouTube in May.

'Home for Christmas'
After numerous false dawns, the family was looking forward to being reunited on Sunday, the Gift of the Givers said.

"A team of Abyan leaders met in Aden this morning and were preparing the final security and logistical arrangements, related to hostage release mechanisms, to bring Pierre to safety and freedom," the charity said.

"All logistical arrangements were in place to safely fly Pierre out of Yemen under diplomatic cover, then to meet with family members in a 'safe' country, fly to South Africa, and directly to hospital for total medical evaluation and appropriate intervention.

"It is even more tragic that the words we used in a conversation with Yolande at 5.59 this morning was 'the wait is almost over.'

"Three days ago we told her 'Pierre will be home for Christmas'. We certainly did not mean it in the manner it has unfolded."

Imtiaz Sooliman, head of the charity, claimed the US army intervened to prevent Al-Qaeda from decapitating an American hostage. He said he spoke Friday night to the charity's representative in Yemen about information that Al-Qaeda planned to execute a US hostage.

"I said, that is my greatest fear... and that before they do it, American troops are going to attack and Pierre is going to die in the operation," Sooliman told a press conference in Johannesburg.

He said the Americans were probably under pressure from the families of hostages to take action. "No one can be blamed for that, it is a hostage-taking, a crisis situation and each one works for his interests," he said.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the hostages' captors killed both men during the raid. The State Department said it did not know the identity of the hostage being held along with Somers.

"We assessed that there were two hostages at this location, one of whom was Luke Somers. We did not know who the second hostage was," a senior State Department official said.

Korkie's captors had demanded a ransom of $3 million (2.2 million euros).

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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