'Pierre Korkie was a brilliant thinker'

A special memorial is being held for the teacher who lost his life in Yemen last week.

School learners carrying Pierre Korkie's coffin ahead of his memorial in Bloemfontein on 12 December 2014. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

BLOEMFONTEIN - The Free State government has described slain school teacher Pierre Korkie as a brilliant thinker, committed to developing his pupils in South Africa and abroad at his memorial service, which is underway in Bloemfontein.

Korkie was killed during a failed rescue attempt by United States Special Forces while they were trying to rescue an American journalist also captured by al-Qaeda.

Korkie was held captive by al-Qaeda for more than 18 months.

His memorial service is being attended by his former pupils and colleagues at Grey College, as well as representatives from the groups that tried to have him released by the terrorists.

The Free State government's Director General Kopung Ralikontsane says they're still shocked by his death.

"No amount of words can sufficiently express our shock and disappointment. With heavy hearts and sorrow, we are one and united with the Korkie family in mourning his departure and we can only try to emulate his gallantry, even in very difficult times and trying times."

Korkie's friends and family are understood to have travelled from across the country to attend the service, which will be followed by a private burial.