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Taliban Announces 22 Hostages Still Alive

Posted July. 27, 2007 03:11,   


Negotiations for the release of the Korean hostages held by Taliban militants in Afghanistan are reportedly facing difficulties. Eight hostages, who were believed to be released, have been confirmed still to be captives of the Taliban, which indicates that efforts to free some of the abductees have been unsuccessful. The body of a Korean man, found with ten 10 gunshots wounds in the Qarabagh district of Ghazni province, Afghanistan, has been identified as 42-year-old Rev. Bae Hyeong-gyu – the leader of the volunteer group.

The other 22 Korean hostages are alive and some foreign media’s reports have anticipated a successful negotiation to free the hostages.

Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, a purported spokesman for the Taliban, said in a phone call with AFP, “The remaining 22 Korean captives are still alive after the final deadline of 5:30 a.m. They (Afghan government) have given signs of hope for reaching a peaceful settlement.

Ahmadi denied reports from some foreign media that eight hostages were released on July 25. The Associated Press had reported on the early morning of July 26, eight hostages, two men and six women, had been released and taken to a U.S. military base in Gahzni.

Japan’s NHK reported, quoting a remark of a negotiator of the Afghan government, while eight hostages were on their way to be delivered after an agreement was reached for their release, it appears that they turned back toward the hideout in a hurry.

According to the spokesman, the Taliban intended to release eight of the Korean abductees after reaching an agreement with the Afghan government; however they returned to their base, after concluding that security was not ensured, when they spotted armored vehicles on their way to the delivery point spot.

Meanwhile, the Korean government reported the official confirmation of the death of Rev. Bae and transported the covered body to the base at Baghram Air Base in Afghanistan, where Korean troops are stationed.

The covered body of Rev. Bae Hyung-kyu will be repatriated as soon as a flight is arranged from Kabul Airport to Korea.

Government authorities declined to confirm whether gunshots were the cause of death of Rev. Bae, citing “there needs to be further investigation.” Regarding the rumor of a possible release of eight captives, the government again declined to comment, saying that it was not under their jurisdiction.

A Cheong Wa Dae spokesman said, “So far, it has been confirmed that the 22 abductees are safe,” and that there will be “consistent contact with the militant group.”

The government held a meeting yesterday morning, stating, “The kidnappers will be held accountable for victimizing the lives of Korean citizens. We will not tolerate such actions against humanity under any circumstances.”

On the same day, the government urgently dispatched Baek Jong-cheon, South Korea`s chief presidential secretary for security affairs, to Afghanistan as the presidential envoy.

With Cho Jung-pyo, a Foreign Ministry official, who had arrived in Kabul prior to Baek, plans to consult with the Afghan government on the release of the abductees.

klimt@donga.com triplets@donga.com