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Official: US Unaware of Negotiations to Free S. African Hostage


FILE - South African Yolande Korkie, a former hostage and wife of Pierre Korkie, holds a press conference in Johannesburg to appeal for the release of her husband held in Yemen.

The U.S. ambassador to South Africa said the United States did not know about negotiations to release a South African hostage who died Saturday during a U.S. special forces raid in Yemen.

Ambassador Patrick Gaspard said Monday that Washington was also unaware that South African teacher Pierre Korkie was being held at the same site as American journalist Luke Somers, whose rescue was the objective of the failed mission.

U.S. officials said both men were killed by their captors during the raid.

At least 10 other people, including a 10-year-old boy and a local al-Qaida leader, were also killed during the raid in the village of Dafaar in Shabwa province, a militant stronghold in southern Yemen.

Gaspard reiterated that President Barack Obama ordered the raid because the al-Qaida militants holding Somers indicated they were going to kill him.

Family doesn't hold US responsible

South African aid organization Gift of the Givers said it had reached an agreement with the militants for Korkie to be released, and told his family several days before the raid that he would be home soon.

Gift of the Givers and Pierre's wife, Yolande, who was released in January after being held with her husband, told Reuters they didn't hold the U.S. responsible.

"There is no accusation toward anybody. Mrs Korkie is not in a position to say they (U.S.) were wrong," Korkie family spokesman Daan Nortier told Reuters.

Also, in a statement, Korkie's widow, Yolande, said the family has chosen to deal with the tragedy with forgiveness.

"We choose to love," they said. "We choose to rejoice in the memories of Pierre and keep him alive in our hearts."

Gift of the Givers spokesman Imtiaz Sooliman confirmed that Washington had not been informed about the negotiations.

"I don’t judge them for making the raid or have any anger toward them. They were working in the best interests of their citizen," Sooliman told Reuters. "Any other government would do something similar."

Pierre Korkie's body was due to be returned to South Africa on Monday.

At least two more hostages are being held by AQAP.

Some material for this report came from Reuters.

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