Taliban Agree to Free 19 Korean Hostages
Taliban insurgents said on Tuesday they would release 19 South Korean Christian volunteers they have been holding for nearly six weeks.
Earlier South Korea’s presidential Blue House issued a statement saying the agreement was on condition it withdraw its troops from Afghanistan within the year and stopped its nationals doing missionary work there.
Taliban representative, Qari Mohammad Bashir, confirmed a deal had been struck. But the Taliban demands did not include their main previous condition — the release of a group of militants held prisoner by the Afghan government.
“By the end of 2007, they will withdraw their forces from Afghanistan,” Bashir told reporters, standing side by side with Korean negotiators in Ghazni province.
“They will not send to Afghanistan those they sent for promulgation of … Christianity and will ban others from coming again for promulgation of Christianity,” he said.
“All Korean nationals in any field working in Afghanistan will leave Afghanistan by the end of August,” he said.
He said the Taliban would start releasing the hostages on Wednesday.
KABUL _ After several days of hiatus, Taliban militants and Korean officials are set to resume talks on the fate of the remaining 19 Korean hostages, who are about to complete their sixth week of captivity in war-torn Afghanistan. … Zabeehullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, told The Korea Times that the militants were ready for the next phase of talks to amicably resolve the issue. …
Mujahid denied that there had been any mediation by the Saudi Arabian government, however, he said they would not reject any such move for a peaceful resolution of the problem. He said they had not come to any settlement with Korean officials when asked about a report carried by a local news agency, the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP), that an agreement had been reached.
The spokesman said their leadership had ordered them to initiate a fresh round of talks with the Korean delegation provided the latter comes out with some solid proposals for a solution. “It is no use if the other side has nothing new to offer to the Taliban during the talks,” said Mujahid.
Pray that this would come to pass! Unconfirmed news from The Korea Times, 08-25-2007 18:16:
The Taliban militants holding the 19 Korean hostages agreed with the Korean governemnt to free them, according to a report.
Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported Saturday that the agreement came with the mediation of the government of Saudi Arabia.
AIP said the governments of Korea and Saudi Arabia will officially announce Sunday the agreement in Ghazni Province where the Taliban kidnapped the Koreans on July 19.
Meanwhile, the Korean government didn’t confirm the report.
Song Min-soon, minister of foreign affairs and trade, left for Saudi Arabia Friday night.