08/10/2007, 00.00
AFGHANISTAN - SOUTH KOREA
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Talibans not to kill more South Korean hostages

Captors’ spokesman announces that hostages will not be executed before direct negotiations with a South Korean delegation take place. Some 50 Christian and Buddhist religious leaders appeal for their unconditional release.

Kabul (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Talibans said they will not kill any of the 21 remaining South Korean hostages it is holding until planned face-to-face meetings have been held with a delegation from the East Asian country, Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said. In the meantime in South Korea religious leaders are increasing their appeals for the release of the 21 hostages and praying for their salvation.

The captors have repeatedly threatened to kill more of the captives they seized July 19 if their demands are not met.

The Talibans and South Korean officials have agreed to meet for talks to break the deadlock but have not been able to agree on a location both sides consider safe.

To facilitate talks the South Korean government issued guidelines for its aid organizations saying they must leave Afghanistan by the end of the month for safety reasons. Last month, the government had already banned its citizens from travelling to Afghanistan.

Ahmadi said the departure of South Korean aid workers would move forward negotiations with the Talibans. The end of South Korea’s presence in Afghanistan as well as the release of some Taliban prisoners held in US bases are some of the Taliban demands.

About 50 South Korean Buddhist and Christian religious leaders in a statement issued on Tuesday said that they hoped for the safe release of the “kidnapped Koreans unconditionally and with no more casualties.”

The 23 South Korean volunteers abducted last month south of Kabul belong to a Presbyterian Church in Saemmul. Two were killed in subsequent days.

The religious leaders who signed the appeal represent six Buddhist and Christian associations: the Catholic National Federation for Justice, the Korea Christian Action Organization, the Committee for Justice and Peace of the National Council of Churches in Korea, the Religion Environment Forum, the Won Buddhist Association for Social Reform and the Jungto Society of Buddhism.

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