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Taliban Kill One Korean Hostage
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Authorities recovered the bullet-riddled body of a South Korean hostage in central Afghanistan yesterday.

A police officer who discovered the body said the man had 10 bullet holes in his head, chest and stomach, and was found in the Mushaki area of Qarabagh district in Ghazni province.

A South Korean woman at a candle light vigil in Seoul yesterday demanding the withdrawal of South Korean troops from Afghanistan and the safe return of kidnapped compatriots.

A Taliban spokesman said earlier that the militants had killed one of the hostages because Afghan authorities hadn't met their demands to release Taliban militants from prison.

The Taliban spokesman said they will kill the rest if their demands are not met by 4:30 AM Beijing time today.

A local government official also confirmed the death.

"Yes, they have killed one of the hostages but efforts are underway to have the others released," district chief of Qarabagh, Khowja Seddiqi, told Reuters.

The Taliban had complained that the Afghan government had failed to release any Taliban prisoners as the kidnappers had demanded and as, according to the rebel spokesman, Korean negotiators had assured them Kabul would do.

"Since Kabul's administration did not listen to our demand and did not free our prisoners, the Taliban shot dead a male Korean hostage," the spokesman said.

"If the administration of Kabul is not ready to release our hostages, then by 1 am (local time) the rest of the hostages will be killed," he said. "That time is the last deadline."

He rejected Korean media reports that said the Taliban planned to free eight of the captives.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his ministers have remained silent throughout the latest hostage ordeal.

Family members of the Korean hostages gathered at the offices of a non-governmental agency in Seoul to watch developments on television.

Relatives did not speak to reporters, but sounds of crying were heard when news broke that one of the hostages had been killed.

Around 1,000 people gathered in suburban Seoul around Saemmul church, which sent the volunteers to Afghanistan, to pray for their safe return, broadcaster YTN reported.

Many cried after news of the death was released with a few screaming: "No! No!"

In his statements yesterday, the Taliban spokesman did not mention the Taliban demand that South Korea pull its 200 troops out of Afghanistan, suggesting the rebel's emphasis had shifted to demand for their prisoners to be released.

Elsewhere in Afghanistan, a German journalist and his Afghan translator kidnapped in the east of the country overnight were freed yesterday.

(China Daily July 26, 2007)

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