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Last of S. Korean hostages released in Afghanistan

ICC Note: Seven last hostages released, thanks be to God. These missionaries were held for 43 days in prison.

By Byun Duk-kun

8/30/07 Afghanistan/South Korea (Yonhap) — Taliban insurgents on Thursday freed the last seven South Korean hostages in Afghanistan , putting an end to the 43-day hostage crisis following the release of 12 others a day before.

혻 The release of the hostages kidnapped on July 19 came just two days came after the Taliban agreed to free the South Koreans in exchange for the withdrawal of South Korea ‘s 200-member reconstruction units from Afghanistan by the year’s end.

혻혻 Speculation immediately arose that there might have been a hidden agreement, such as a ransom, influencing the the release of the Koreans as Tuesday’s deal, announced by both Seoul and the Taliban, contained nothing new.

혻혻 South Korea already had plans to pull out its troops before the end of the year, even before the hostage ordeal broke out. Seoul rejected rumors of a hidden deal, saying the agreement also includes imposing a ban on any unauthorized visits to Afghanistan , especially by Christian missionaries.

혻혻 Twenty-three South Koreans were seized originally, but the Taliban shot dead two male hostages and released two females shortly after direct negotiations between South Korean representatives and Taliban insurgents began earlier this month.

혻 The last seven hostages were handed to Afghan tribal elders from Ghazni province, who later dropped off the South Koreans to be picked up by international Red Cross officials in the Central Asian country.

혻 In a telephone conversation with Yonhap News Agency, tribal elders said the released hostages were to be dropped off in the neighboring Zabul province.

혻혻 The South Korean government is still waiting for its representatives in Afghanistan to take over the released hostages before making any official confirmation.

혻혻 Still, the office of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) confirmed the release, saying its officials expected to pick up the hostages “in an hour” or so.

혻혻 Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Taliban, earlier told Yonhap that the hostages would be released in two “groups of three and four.”

But an official at the ICRC said the officials en route to Zabul province were expected to pick up all seven… [Go To Full Story]