JOHANNESBURG – The Department of International Relations (DIR) says it’s negotiating with officials in Yemen to secure the release of two abducted South Africans.
Pierre and Yolande Korkie from Bloemfontien were abducted in the city of Ta’izz.
It is believed they were involved in a hotel development deal which turned sour.
Five people have already been arrested in connection with the abduction.
DIR’s Nelson Kgwete said, “The law enforcement authorities in Yemen are working hard to resolve the matter as quickly as possible.”
Meanwhile, officials said two drone strikes killed seven suspected al Qaeda militants in southern Yemen earlier today.
In two separate attacks, militants killed two senior police officers in the eastern part of the country.
Officials said both attacks carried the hallmarks of al Qaeda, which is believed to be behind a spate of recent attacks on senior police, security and army officers, including at least three incidents last week.
Monday’s kidnapping is the latest attack targeting foreigners in the impoverished Arab state, where the government is struggling to restore law and order since a power transfer deal in late 2011 saw former President Ali Abdullah Saleh hand over to his deputy following months of pro-democracy protests.
An Interior Ministry source added that the kidnappers had apparently mistaken the South African pair for Europeans or Americans but gave no further details on what they were doing in Yemen.
Kidnapping of foreigners in Yemen is common, often carried out by disgruntled tribesmen seeking to press the government to free jailed relatives or to improve public services, or by Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda.
Earlier this month, tribesmen briefly kidnapped three employees of the International Committee of the Red Cross – a Swiss, a Kenyan and a Yemen — in the southern province of Abyan but freed them three days later.
Yemen has been grappling with an Islamist insurgency, a separatist movement in the southern part of the country and a spate of attacks by gunmen on power stations, electric grids and oil pipelines since President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi was elected for a two-year interim period in 2013 after Saleh stepped down.
Lawlessness in the poor Arabian Peninsula state has alarmed neighbouring Saudi Arabia, the world’s leading oil exporter, as well as the United States, which increasingly views Yemen as a frontline is its struggle against al Qaeda.