Korkie family forgives al-Qaeda

Pierre Korkie's family say they're overwhelmed by pain, but have forgiven his captors.

FILE: Pierre Korkie's wife, Yolande, attends a press conference in Johannesburg after being held captive in Yemen. Picture: Govan Whittles/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The family of South African school teacher Pierre Korkie have for the first time spoken out since his death, saying they're overwhelmed by pain, but have forgiven his captors.

Korkie was killed following a botched rescue attempt by United States Special Forces in Yemen, that left him and American journalist Luke Somers dead.

Korkie and his wife Yolande were kidnapped by al-Qaeda militants in May last year.

Yolande was freed in January this year and in the early hours of Saturday morning, the US launched an operation to free Korkie and Somers.

Korkie's family says they're still searching for answers, and for now they will rejoice in the memories they have of their husband and father.

In a statement released last night, the Korkie family says they've chosen to forgive and love despite feeling overwhelming pain.

International Relations Department spokesman Nelson Kgwete says the minister spoke to her counterpart in Yemen at the weekend, strongly condemning Korkie's murder.

"Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane expressed the South African government's firm and unconditional condemnation of all forms of terrorism that invariably result in the senseless suffering and loss of innocent lives."

It's understood Korkie was killed in crossfire between al-Qaeda and US forces, although the Americans claim he was executed by the terrorists.

Meanwhile, US Ambassador to South Africa, Patrick Gaspard, says those involved in the failed rescue mission in Yemen had no idea Korkie was being kept in the same place as Somers.

Gaspard says US President Barack Obama authorised the mission because there was legitimate information that Somers was to be executed within 72 hours.

Somers and Korkie were killed during the mission but it's unknown whether they were murdered by their captors or by accident.

Korkie was reportedly set to be released the following day, after lengthy negotiations.

Gaspard says they did not want Somers to meet the same fate as other hostages in recent months.

"The US government was absolutely unaware of negotiations between Gift of the Givers and these brutal al-Qaeda hostage takers. We were also unaware that Pierre Korkie was being held in the same space as Luke Somers."

Click here to read the full statement released by the Korkie family.