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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Taliban Releases 12 South Korean Hostages

(South Korean hostages are seen walking after being released by Taliban militants in Ghazni province, 29 Aug 2007)

Last night the Taliban handed over three of the 19 South Korean hostages they have held captive for nearly six weeks, after reaching a deal with South Korean officials.

The Taliban has begun releasing 19 South Korean Christian volunteers, after holding them in Afghanistan for nearly six weeks. The militants have freed 12 hostages so far a day after South Korea made a series of concessions to end the hostage crisis. VOA Correspondent Benjamin Sand reports from Islamabad.

The Taliban freed four women and one man hours after releasing a first group of three women. The hostages were handed over to tribal chiefs in southern Gazni province Wednesday and then to Red Cross officials.

Taliban officials said the rest would be freed shortly.

Provincial Governor Merajuddin Pattan told VOA he was confident the crisis was now over.

"Within three days the whole number will be released," he said.

In exchange, South Korea has agreed to end its military presence in Afghanistan by the end of this year, a move Seoul announced several months ago.

According to Channel 4, there have been rumors that ransom money rather than diplomacy secured the release of the hostages.

The rest of the hostages should be released by Thursday.

A total of 23 South Koreans were captured as they travelled by bus on the main highway between Kandahar and Kabul.

Two were killed and another two were released before a deal was reached to end the standoff.

More as it comes out....

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