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Korkie kidnap: Ominous message from Yemen

Gift of the Givers says al-Qaeda has sent a threatening image, but believe it’s just a scare tactic.

Pierre Korkie is being held hostage by al-Qaeda militants in the Yemeni city of Taiz. Main picture: AFP. Inset picture: Supplied.

JOHANNESBURG - Relief organisation Gift of the Givers says it has received a picture from al-Qaeda of a bomb belt and a letter asking about the ransom money for South African teacher Pierre Korkie.

Pierre and his wife Yolande were taken hostage in May last year by the group.

Yolande was released almost two weeks ago to secure a R30 million ransom for her husband but no payment has been made.

Deputy International Relations Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim visited the country over the weekend, which the kidnappers took as a sign the South African government wanted to negotiate.

However, government made it clear it would not negotiate ransoms but pleaded with the kidnappers to have mercy.

Gift of the Givers Imtiaz Sooliman says the picture was sent as a text message during a dialogue about the ransom.

The kidnappers asked why government hadn't paid the amount yet, saying 'when governments say they won't negotiate, they still pay under the radar'.

"They spoke a few more words after which they sent us a picture of the bomb belt. They didn't threaten us in words, nor did they threaten Pierre. They didn't discuss negotiations around the ransom regarding the efforts by the Korkie family nor did they mention anything about the deadline or Pierre's health."

Sooliman says they are not threatened by the picture.

"They didn't say anything negative about Pierre. They didn't say, 'Oh, because your government didn't bring any money, now we're going to cut the extension by one week.' They didn't say that. They didn't say that Pierre's life is in danger. It's just a scare tactic."

He says he has instructed the negotiator to stay put for now and to not engage in face-to-face talks with the captors.

The group says it cannot release the image to the media for security reasons.