Abyan Tribal Leaders Meet Al Qaeda
Here is an update:
26 January 2014 Gift of the Givers lose all communication with Al Qaeda.
8 February 2014 Second deadline to meet the ransom demand to free Pierre Korkie expires.
15 February 2014 Anas's tribal leaders contact tribal leaders in Abyan which is a known Al Qaeda stronghold. These leaders are requested to try and "find" Al Qaeda. They report back a few hours later having managed to make contact with some Al Qaeda representatives. The message from Al Qaeda is clear: "hand Anas over to us as he has our ransom money; we won't talk to him or to his tribal leaders; Pierre is alive and in bad health; Pierre is completely deaf; we communicate with him by writing notes on pieces of paper". They further mentioned that they are not holding Pierre but that another Al Qaeda group is holding him deep in the desert.
25 February 2014 Anas's tribal leaders send a high level delegation with money and gifts to the Abyan tribal leaders to request their assistance in "finding" Al Qaeda. This is the Yemeni tribal custom when assistance is required. Assistance is promised but with a clear message that this is not an easy task, that neither Al Qaeda leaders nor their whereabouts are known to anyone, that if contact is made it can still take seven days or longer to get a face-face appointment.
We got feedback last night, 17 March 2014, that Abyan tribal leaders finally met Al Qaeda, face-face, after having to wait for a prolonged period. The meeting was tense and rushed with not much opportunity for dialogue in the 15 minutes granted but sufficient to glean necessary information. Al Qaeda still want the ransom money; they can't make exceptions for a South African otherwise they will have to make exceptions for the three other hostages of different nationalities they were holding. There was no mention if the ransom is negotiable nor any comment on Pierre's health. All they said is "if you give us the money you can have Pierre now". The Abyan tribal leaders expressed the view, that in their analysis of the discussion that took place, Al Qaeda had "bought" the Korkie couple from a group of kidnappers for a very handsome sum and it is probably for this reason that they will not waive the ransom issue as they need to recover what they have "lost". There wasn't sufficient time granted to discuss proof of life. We now, together with the tribal leaders, have to figure out the next plan of action.