Twenty-three South Koreans, including 18 women, were kidnapped on Thursday, July 19, while riding a bus through the Ghazni province in Afghanistan. Korean negotiators accompanied by Afghan elders and clerics met face-to-face with the kidnappers of the hostages on Tuesday in Afghanistan, as a threatened Taliban deadline to execute them passed by once again. The rebels have pushed back their ultimatum on the Koreans’ fate at least three times.
Ghazni villagers demonstrated, demanding the hostages be released. The province’s police chief, Mohammad Zaman, said the Taliban should release the hostages as they are guests in the country and they want them to be safe.
Originally, the rebels have threatened to kill the South Koreans unless 23 Taliban prisoners held by Afghan authorities are released and Seoul withdraws its 200 soldiers from Afghanistan. Now, it is reported that the militants are demanding monetary payment for the South Korean hostages’ release.
The 200 South Korean troops serving in the US-led coalition in Afghanistan are scheduled to leave by the end of 2007. The hostages were said to be involved in medical and volunteer aid.
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