Taliban vows more abductions as hostages freed
Published Thursday, August 30, 2007 6:59PM EDT
The seven remaining South Korean hostages taken captive last July by the Taliban have been released, and insurgents have vowed they will abduct more foreigners.
"We will do the same thing with the other allies in Afghanistan, because we found this way to be successful," Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi told The Associated Press by phone on Thursday.
Twenty-three 23 South Koreans, all volunteers from a church group, were kidnapped by Taliban militants on July 19. Two of the male captives were later executed by gunfire.
The group had come to Afghanistan to volunteer at hospitals, and were travelling from Kabul to Kandahar City when the Taliban seized them by gunpoint.
When the last hostages were freed Thursday, men accompanying them handed a note to journalists, claiming the South Koreans had come to convert Muslims.
"They came to our nation to change our faith," the unsigned note read. "The Afghan people have given their lives for their faith. This is the reason we arrested them."
Relatives of the hostages and the South Korean government have maintained the group was only in Afghanistan to help suffering Afghans, not to do missionary work.
The insurgents freed the final hostages Thursday in two groups.
First, two men and two women were released to representatives of the International Red Cross on a road in the Janda area in central Afghanistan.
Hours later, the three remaining hostages -- two women and a man -- were released.
On Wednesday, the Taliban released 12 of the hostages into the care of the Red Cross at three separate locations in central Afghanistan, near the city of Ghazni.
The South Korean government said Tuesday that they reached a deal by agreeing to pull all of their troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2007, as already planned.
The South Koreans also had to agree to stop all missionary work in the country.
Two female South Korean hostages were freed on Aug. 13, before the deal was reached.
Taliban leaders had demanded that prisoners be released in exchange for the Koreans' lives, but the Afghan government said it was not prepared to let go of any prisoners.
Some analysts said negotiating with the Taliban gave the insurgents political legitimacy.
"Taliban now have diplomacy, they have got spokesmen, they value cameras, they have a political dimension for their movement, and their aim is to be recognized as legitimate," Mustafa Alani, director of security and terrorism studies at the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center, told AP.
The South Korean government has said it's common practice to negotiate with hostage-takers.
With files from The Associated Press/>