Taliban 'free' two female hostages

Spokesmen say that two unwell South Koreans "freed" as goodwill gesture.

    Taliban negotiators held two days of face-to-face talks with a South Korean delegation [Reuters]
    "What I can tell you is the leadership council has said they must be freed, so they're freed," he said.
     
    Taliban fighters seized 23 South Koreans - working in Afghanistan as volunteers with a Christian group - on July 19, as they travelled by bus from Kabul to the southern city of Kandahar.
     

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    Two male hostages have been shot dead since then and their captors had threatened to murder more if demands for the release of Taliban prisoners were not met.

    Qari Yusuf Bashir, head of the Taliban's negotiation team, said earlier that Kabul would meet their demands and that the Korean and Afghan sides had already approved an initial "prisoners exchange".
     
    Speaking outside the Afghan Red Cross office in Ghazni where the second day of talks were held, he said: "We have great hope that the hostage crisis will be resolved today or tomorrow inshallah [God willing]."

    The meeting between the Taliban leaders and four Korean officials, which began on Friday, was the first direct meeting since the Koreans were kidnapped.

    Dan Nolan, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Kabul, said a Taliban spokesman told him that the two women were being freed in exchange for South Korea reconfirming that all its troops would leave Afghanistan by the end of the year. 

    "There will be more negotiations between the South Koreans and the Taliban ... but the Taliban have made it clear for any more hostages to be released it will only be as part of a prisoner-hostage exchange," he said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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