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Hostage Crisis Could Be Prolonged

Posted September. 03, 2007 19:42,   


It has been ten days since Korean missionaries were taken hostage in Afghanistan.

The negotiation to release them has been deadlocked without little progress. Rather, it seems the government does not have a clue yet as to where to begin. The Afghan government and the Taliban are making conflicting statements on the demands of the militant group and information on hostages. Due to the lack of basic information, there is a growing concern that the situation could be prolonged.

Conflicting demands-.

Qari Yusef Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, argued in a transcript interview posted on the Taliban homepage on July 28 that the Afghan government is defaming the Taliban by saying that Taliban is demanding money. The statement was yet another reminder that they want nothing other than the release of their prisoners.

The head of the police department in the Ghazni province, however, made it clear that Taliban wanted money in exchange for the hostages by saying that the negotiation is tough due to a huge gap between the demands of the two sides on the amount of ransom and other conditions.

The inconsistency does not stop there. In the earlier stage of negotiation, a source from the Afghan government said that the list of prisoners the Taliban wanted to be freed included a commander or similar rank, indicating that the list is unacceptable.

Ahmadi, however, retorted that the government was lying and the prisoners were all ordinary members of Taliban. Ahmadi further attacked the Afghan government by saying that it was lying when it said the prisoners were in the hands of the U.S. army.

Unconfirmed hostage locations-.

It is essential to identify which groups have how many hostages before going to the negotiating table, but nothing is confirmed yet.

A hostage who was presumed to be Yoo Jeong-hwa said in a tape of voice released through the Reuters news agency on Saturday that she was with only three others. Her statement is in clear contrast to what another hostage, Lim Hyeon-ju, said during a conversation with CBS two days ago: that the hostages were divided into two groups by gender and she was with 17 other women. According to Ahmadi, hostages are separated by groups of two in 11 different locations. Some foreign media reported that some female hostages were relocated to a house of locals.

The remarks about health conditions of hostages are confusing, too. Lim said on Wednesday that they were all sick and in danger, while a Taliban officer said the next day that only one male hostage was ill but recovered. Ahmadi, on the other had, said on Friday that seventeen hostages are sick.

The situation could be prolonged-

The biggest stumbling block to the negotiation is that the efforts to persuade the Afghan and the U.S. government on the issue of exchange of prisoners and hostages are failing.

Baek Jong-cheon, chief presidential secretary for security affairs and special envoy to Afghanistan, met with top Afghan officials and asked for flexible responses, while the government is repeatedly asking for help of the U.S., which has an absolute influence on the Afghan affairs. Little has been agreed on yet.

The Afghan and the U.S. governments consider the Taliban a terrorist organization and are refusing to hold talks with it, reportedly.

The government should either make its utmost diplomatic efforts to release the Taliban prisoners in exchange for the hostages, or find another card to play.

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