JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - The government in Yemen, a U.S. ally, was kept informed about a South African aid group's efforts to negotiate the release of a South African hostage before he died in a U.S. raid on al-Qaeda militants, the head of the aid group said Monday.
The comments by Imtiaz Sooliman, founder of Gift of the Givers, came amid questions about what officials of various governments knew, if anything, about efforts to release South African Pierre Korkie, who was said to be close to being freed even as another hostage with him, American Luke Somers, appeared to face imminent execution.
The two men were killed Saturday during a U.S.-led rescue attempt. The U.S. ambassador in South Africa said the United States did not know that Sooliman and his organization believed the South African hostage was to be released Sunday under a deal struck with al-Qaeda.
"At all times, the Yemeni government was informed about our actions on the ground," Sooliman said in an interview. "We didn't do anything in isolation from them."
Sooliman said he had considered the possibility that Yemeni authorities were talking to American allies about the case, but said he did not want to "delve" into speculation and took the Americans at their word.
"If they say they didn't know, they didn't know," he said.