Afghan army prepares hostage rescue
A South Korean delegation lands in Afghanistan as Afghan and Nato troops are mobilised.
The team from South Korea is said to have met Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, and will perhaps hold talks with the Taliban.
The Koreans have been held since Thursday after being taken from a bus in Ghazni province. The Taliban has threatened to kill them unless an equal number of Taliban prisoners are freed.
Yousuf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, said on Saturday that five Afghan engineers and two German hostages had been killed. The Afghan government had not confirmed the claim, but on Sunday the police said that the body of one German was found in southern Wardak province.
Roh Moo-hyun, South Korea’s president, said on Saturday that Seoul was ready to make sincere efforts to win an early release of its citizens and that the Taliban “should send our people home quickly and safely”.
The outlawed Afghan group is demanding the immediate withdrawal of German and Korean troops from Afghanistan and the release of all its members in Afghan prisons.
|The Taliban has seized a number of
foreigners as part of its campaign
South Korea has reiterated its plans to withdraw its troops by the end of the year, as scheduled.
While Seoul has no combat troops in the country, it has a military contingent of about 200 engineers and doctors.
Song Min-soon, South Korea’s foreign minister, said he had spoken to his Afghan counterpart and that officials from both countries were working to secure the Koreans’ release.
Melissa Chan reporting from Seoul said that the relatives of the hostages were reluctant to appear on television.
“They are afraid anything they say can affect the safety of their loved ones,” she said.
The Taliban spokesman said his group believes that the South Koreans are missionaries.
The Taliban has seized a number of foreign nationals as part of its campaign to overthrow the Afghan government and drive out its Western backers.
Conflicting reports remained over the cause of the death of the German hostage.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign minister, said in Berlin: “Everything indicates he was a victim of the stress of the kidnapping.”
Ahmadi, however, said both Germans had been executed.
A spokeswoman for the German foreign ministry said that Berlin had received no clear evidence that the two Germans were in the hands of the Taliban.
She said a special crisis task force at the ministry was working closely with the Afghan government to secure their release.
In a newspaper interview on Saturday, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, rejected the Taliban demand.
“We can’t give up our efforts now,” she was quoted as saying in an interview with Passauer Neue Presse newspaper. “The Afghan people can’t be abandoned.”