Fate of two Korean hostages unclear

The release of two South Koreans in Afghanistan delayed by transport problems.

    Taliban negotiators held two days of face-to-face talks with a South Korean delegation [Reuters]
    Dan Nolan, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Kabul, said the Taliban had told him that transportation problems in getting the hostages to the release site were delaying the handover. 
     
    Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, said on Sunday: "The time hasn't been decided. It could be today." 
     
    Meanwhile, Yonhap, South Korea's news agency, said on Sunday that the Taliban had decided not to free any of the hostages, citing a spokesman for the movement.

    Neither Afghan nor South Korean officials have confirmed that any hostages are to be released.
     
    Taliban statement
     
    At a news conference on Saturday, Ahmadi had said: "Our leadership council decided to free unconditionally and as a gesture of goodwill two women hostages who are sick."
     
    "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 said a Taliban spokesman had 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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