Freed Korean hostages return home

Two women arrive back in Seoul but 19 hostages still held captive by Taliban.

    Kim Kyeong-ja, left, and Kim Ji-na
    arriving at Incheon airport [Reuters]

    Kim Ji-na echoed: "All I wish for is the release of the rest of our team members."

     

    The women were freed on Monday and had been receiving medical care at a South Korean military base in Afghanistan.

     

    They walked on their own to a waiting ambulance on Friday and were to be admitted to a military hospital south of Seoul because the government wants to keep them away from the media.

     

    Officials are concerned that what they say could affect negotiations to free the remaining hostages.

     

    The two women were part of a group of aid volunteers from a South Korean church who were abducted from a bus in southern Afghanistan last month.

    Two men were subsequently killed, leaving 14 women and five men still being held.
     
    The Taliban have demanded the release of jailed comrades in exchange for the release of the hostages. But they said they released the two women as a "gesture of goodwill".
     
    Talks break down
     

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    Three hours of negotiations between the Taliban and a South Korean delegation over the release of the 19 remaining hostages made no headway on Thursday, the Taliban said.
     
    A purported spokesman said Taliban leaders were debating whether it was even worth holding another round of direct negotiations.
     
    Yousuf Ahmadi said: "Our negotiations ended without any results."
     
    He added that the Taliban's leading council "will decide that they will propose to continue negotiations tomorrow, or they will make another decision".
     
    Ahmadi said Taliban negotiators had reiterated a demand for the exchange of eight of the movement's men in jail for eight of its hostages as a first step.
     
    The Afghan government has steadfastly rejected a prisoner swap, a stand repeated by Mirajuddin Pattan, the Ghazni province governor, on Thursday.
     
    "The exchange of prisoners is not up for discussion," he said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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