Dec 12, 2014 5:30 AM

South Africans mourn slain compatriots

The Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG (AP) Mourners in South Africa prayed and sang hymns on Friday during separate funeral services for four South African civilians who were killed in conflicts in Yemen and Afghanistan.

In the city of Bloemfontein, family and friends paid tribute to Pierre Korkie, a teacher who was killed in Yemen on Dec. 6 during a U.S. raid on al-Qaida militants who were holding Korkie and American hostage Luke Somers. American officials say militants killed both men.

Uniformed students at a South African school where Korkie had taught escorted his flower-laden casket.

"If I had to take one message from the proceedings, it was forgiveness," said Ali Sayed, spokesman for Gift of the Givers, a South African aid group that had been negotiating for Korkie's release.

U.S. Ambassador Patrick Gaspard attended the service after Korkie's widow, Yolande, invited him, the embassy said.

In a separate service at around the same time in the capital Pretoria, mourners gathered to honor Werner Groenewald, an aid worker, and his teenage children, Jean-Pierre and Rode. They were killed Nov. 29 when Taliban militants stormed the office of a foreign aid group in the Afghan capital, Kabul, where the family also lived.

Groenewald's wife, Hannelie, a doctor who was not at the office when the attack occurred, was composed during the ceremony.

"She is incredibly strong," said Teresa Conradie, the family's attorney.

In a symbolic gesture, a pastor lit three candles one for each slain member of the Groenewald family and blew them out.

The Groenewalds were buried at the same church where Werner Groenewald worked as a pastor before leaving for Afghanistan in 2002. Groenewald, 46, led the local activities of Partnership in Academics and Development, which has offices in Redlands, California.


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