Yemen kidnapping: Govt. vows to fight on

The department’s Nelson Kgwete said they are providing consular services to the couple’s family.

The southern city of Taiz in Yemen. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - The International Relations Department on Tuesday said it would not give up on its efforts to ensure the release of a South African couple kidnapped in Yemen.

The couple, recently identified in media reports as Pierre and Yolande Korkie from Bloemfontein, are believed to have been part of a hotel development deal when they were kidnapped in the Yemeni city of Ta'izz.

The department's Nelson Kgwete said it was providing consular services to the couple's family.

"We are keeping the family here in South Africa informed about the progress we are making. The family is hopeful the couple will be released soon."

He added that South Africa's ambassador to Saudi Arabia is still in daily meetings with Yemeni officials to negotiate their release.

Media reports suggest that no group or organisation has taken responsibility for the crime but that the Korkies were kidnapped to pressure government to resolving a land dispute.

The kidnapping is the latest attack targeting foreigners in the impoverished Arab state, where the government is struggling to restore law and order since a power transfer deal in late 2011 saw former President Ali Abdullah Saleh hand over to his deputy following months of pro-democracy protests.

An Interior Ministry source added that the kidnappers had apparently mistaken the South African pair for Europeans or Americans but gave no further details on what they were doing in Yemen.

Kidnapping of foreigners in Yemen is common, often carried out by disgruntled tribesmen seeking to press the government to free jailed relatives or to improve public services, or by Islamist militants linked to al-Qaeda.

Earlier this month, tribesmen briefly kidnapped three employees of the International Committee of the Red Cross - a Swiss, a Kenyan and a Yemen in the southern province of Abyan but freed them three days later.

Yemen has been grappling with an Islamist insurgency, a separatist movement in the southern part of the country and a spate of attacks by gunmen on power stations, electric grids and oil pipelines since President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi was elected for a two-year interim period in 2013 after Saleh stepped down.

Lawlessness in the poor Arabian Peninsula state has alarmed neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the world's leading oil exporter, as well as the United States, which increasingly views Yemen as a frontline is its struggle against al-Qaeda.

Additional reporting by Reuters.