"If anything happens to them, the Afghan government and the South Korean government will be responsible."

"They have to speed up the process of releasing our suggested prisoners."

James Bays, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Kabul, said: "Talks have ended for the day and tribal elders have gone away to talk to the Taliban.

"The negotiating teams are expecting a response from the Taliban in 24 hours, who say they won't set more deadlines or harm the hostages.

"Talks are allegedly focusing first on the 18 female hostages because the government negotiating team led by the interior ministry is appealing to the Taliban under Islam and Pashtun culture, that they should not hold women as prisoners.

"Once the women are released the plan is to discuss the male prisoners," he said.

Mahmood Gailani, an Afghani parliamentarian, said: "In our culture, in our religion, women should be respected more. In war we don't take women as hostages and prisoners."

Mixed messages

The Afghan interior ministry has strenuously
denied an imminent prisoner release [AFP]

The Taliban has threatened to kill all 22 hostages if its demand for the release of eight Taliban prisoners was not met.

But the group has not set another deadline after others lapsed without incident.

The Taliban has already shot dead the leader of the mission, 42-year-old Bae Hyung-Kyu, on Wednesday and dumped his body beside a road.

"We have given them [the government] our list and we are waiting for our prisoners to be released," Ahmadi said.

A Taliban commander involved in negotiations, Abdullah Jan, said: "We will accept no other solution but the release our eight prisoners."

Bays said: "Two sources, one from the provincial government, one from national government are saying that of those eight, four are locals to Ghazni, held in the Policharki jail, and they may consider their release.

"This, however, is a report strenuously denied by the interior ministry and the presidential palace."

A member of the government negotiating team said the release of prisoners was "out of discussion".

Gailani said: "The government policy is very clear - not to release any prisoners ... We have not been given the mandate to exchange prisoners."

Further demands

Bae Hyung-Kyu, far right, was allegeldy 
killed on Wednesday [AFP]
The government was widely criticised when it released five Taliban prisoners in March to free an Italian hostage and Karzai vowed afterwards the deal would not be repeated.

The South Koreans were seized while travelling on the highway between Kabul and Kandahar on July 19 in Ghazni province about 140km south of Kabul.

The aid mission was reportedly in the country to provide free medical services.

The Taliban have also demanded that Seoul withdraw its 200 troops serving with US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan.

South Korea responded by saying it would pull them out as previously scheduled by the end of the year.

The group are also holding a hostage from Germany and have demanded the withdrawal of Germany's 3,000 troops from the war-torn country, as they step up their use of kidnap as a negotiating tool.