Taliban militants threatened yesterday to kill some of their 22
South Korean hostages if there was no progress by noon today on
their demand for the release of eight jailed rebels.
Government-appointed negotiators insisted however that the
Islamic extremists free the 16 women in the group of Christian aid
workers captured on July 19 before they would consider the
An envoy dispatched from Seoul after the Taliban on Wednesday
shot dead the leader of group, a 42-year-old pastor, meanwhile held
talks with President Hamid Karzai who assured that his government
was doing what it could.
The Taliban leadership had decided that if the Afghan and South
Korean governments "don't pay attention to this issue by tomorrow
12 o'clock (07:30 GMT Monday), the Taliban will kill some Korean
hostages," militant spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi said.
Four other deadlines set by the militants have lapsed without
incident but the Taliban on Saturday expressed impatience, with 17
of the South Koreans said to be ill.
Ahmadi said earlier yesterday the Taliban was "trying to the
maximum possible level to solve this issue via talks and that is
why we have still kept alive the hostages for this long
The South Koreans had been divided into small groups and were
being held in three different provinces, he said. "Some of the
hostages have some health problems due to weather or psychological
pressure they feel," he said.
Afghan authorities, who have already ruled out an exchange of
captives, said yesterday they wanted the women to be released
before considering any demands.
In "Islamic law and Afghan culture we cannot harm women and
should not take women as hostages and prisoners," said a leading
member of the negotiating team, Mahmood Gailani.
"After they free the women, we are ready to negotiate with them
about the male hostages," said Mirajuddin Pattan, governor of
Ghazni Province where the group was captured.
Gailani said the release of Taliban prisoners was not an option
but others could be considered.
Asked if this may include paying a ransom, he said: "We are
still exploring our options. We should hear from their side and
what their demands are."
The government was widely criticized when it released five
Taliban prisoners in March to free an Italian hostage and Karzai
vowed afterwards such a deal would not be repeated.
Karzai's office said meanwhile that South Korean envoy Baek
Jong-chun had told the president his government would accept "any
position" taken by Kabul in dealing with the latest hostage
"We are well aware of the Afghan culture and the difficulties
the Afghan government and people are faced with in their fight
against terrorism, and will respect their decision to end the
hostage crisis," Baek was quoted as saying in a statement.
Several foreigners have been held this year by militants waging
a deadly insurgency against the Western-backed government that
replaced the Taliban regime driven from power in late 2001.
Most of them have been freed, some apparently after hefty ransom
payments, although in the case of the Italian journalist two
Afghans were beheaded.
(China Daily via AFP July 30, 2007)