The South Korean government has never paid money to Taliban
militants for the safe of South Korean hostages, said South Korean
Presidential Spokesman Cheon Ho-seon on Friday.
Cheon made the remarks in response to a report by the weekly
magazine Newsweek, which cited an alleged senior Taliban
commander as saying that a Taliban group received money from South
Korea after the kidnapping. It also reported that a South Korean
envoy, a Ghazni member of Afghan parliament and some government
negotiators may have been talking to the Taliban group.
"The Newsweek report is groundless," Cheon said.
"The South Korean government is not in a position to give a
direct answer to the Taliban's demand that its prisoners be swapped
for South Korean hostages. Through the direct contacts, we intend
to stress that our capabilities to meet Taliban demands are
limited," he added.
Taliban militants abducted 23 South Koreans on July 19, and have
shot dead two of them so far. They threatened to execute the
remaining if the Afghan government fails to meet their demand which
includes the release of their eight Taliban comrades.
On Thursday, the United States said it may include the option of
military force in its efforts to free South Korean hostages held by
the Taliban militants in Afghanistan.
"All pressures need to be applied to the Taliban to get them to
release these hostages," Assistant Secretary of State for South and
Central Asia Richard Boucher said.
He said the United States will have cooperation with Afghanistan
and South Korea "to get these people released unharmed, to get them
released peacefully and safely."
Boucher declined to elaborate on what pressures or efforts were
being used or considered but said they included the option of
Boucher made the remarks ahead of a weekend visit by Afghan
President Hamid Karzai, who will meet with US President George W.
Bush at Camp David.
The coming US-Afghan summit is expected to discuss some issues
of mutual interests including the war on terror, counter narcotics
and the US contribution towards rebuilding of the post-Taliban
In another development, the Taliban on Friday claimed that it
had kidnapped an Indian engineer in Baghlan province of northern
A local Taliban commander Bahlol said Taliban fighters abducted
the Indian engineer, who was working at a local power project, on
Thursday in Puli Khumri, the provincial capital.
The engineer has been brought to the central Ghazni
However, police chief in Baghlan and officials in Ghazni said
they did not hear the alleged abduction.
(Xinhua News Agency August 3, 2007)