SANAA (AFP) - Al-Qaeda militants who kidnapped a South African teacher in Yemen last year will not execute him despite their deadline for receiving US$3 million (S$3.8 million) in ransom expiring on Saturday, a mediator said.
Mr Pierre Korkie, 56, was abducted along with his wife in Yemen's second city Taiz in May by members of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
Mr Korkie's wife Yolande was freed last month with the help of the mediator from one of Yemen's powerful tribes and returned home.
Mr Korkie, who is in poor health, "is still alive and the prospect of his being executed is excluded," the mediator told AFP, adding that he was in contact with the kidnappers.
He said the situation remained very delicate, adding: "They cannot free the hostage without the ransom." The kidnappers had previously set a deadline of Jan 17 to free Mr Korkie, threatening to kill him if they did not get the money, but then extended it for three weeks.
The mediator said Saturday that "if the South African authorities demonstrate that they are prepared to respond to the demands of the kidnappers, then we can ask that the extension be prolonged." In Johannesburg on Friday, Mrs Yolande Korkie again pleaded with the abductors for mercy. She said her husband, who suffers from a hernia, is too ill to survive the rigours of his captivity.
"Pierre is an innocent and honest person who served the poor people through his teaching," she said in a video recording, after greeting Al-Qaeda in Arabic, thanking them for treating her with respect.
"My two children and I miss him terribly. He was just an ordinary man from South Africa," she said, flanked by the couple's teenage son and daughter.
"He is gravely ill and he will not survive captivity." This week the charity negotiating his release said the kidnappers had broken off contact, accusing it of stealing the ransom money.
The group believed that South African Deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim, who had travelled to Yemen to appeal for Mr Korkie's release, had brought the money, although this was denied by the South African government.
The couple had lived and worked in Yemen for four years.
Hundreds of people have been abducted in Yemen in the past 15 years, nearly all of them by disgruntled tribesmen who freed their hostages unharmed after short periods of captivity.
The hostages are used as bargaining chips in disputes with the central government.
But AQAP, which is regarded by Washington as the global jihadist network's most dangerous affiliate, has brought a new, more threatening twist to the kidnappings.
Iranian embassy staffer Nour-Ahmad Nikbakht, who was abducted by suspected AQAP militants in the capital Sanaa last July, remains in captivity, tribal sources say.