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Afghan Police Kill Taliban Korean Hostage-Taker

ICC Note: Taliban vow to abduct and kill more foreign aid workers just days after releasing South Korean missionaries, but many are killed in clash with Afghan police and the US military.

9/4/07 Afghanistan ( – A senior Taliban commander involved in the abduction of 23 South Korean missionaries was among dozens of insurgents killed in clashes in southern Afghanistan overnight, police said on Tuesday.

Ali Shah Ahmadzai, police chief of Ghazni province, said Taliban commander Mullah Mateen was among 22 insurgents killed in a clash in the province’s Qarabagh district.

“He was involved in the kidnapping. We have reconaissance colleagues on the ground,” Ahmadzai told Reuters by telephone from Ghazni.

However the U.S. military said it was not yet clear whether any hostage-takers were among “several” insurgents killed in Qarabagh.

It said a dozen militants had been killed in a separate battle in the southern province of Kandahar overnight, while officials said three policemen had been killed in two separate suicide blasts in the south on Tuesday.

“The fighters targeted in this morning’s operation in Ghazni were involved in anti-coalition militant activities. Whether or not they were involved in the hostage situation has yet to be determined decisively,” a U.S. military spokesman said.

The clashes were the latest in a rash of confrontations in the Taliban-dominated south in recent weeks in which the U.S.-led military says coalition forces have killed hundreds of insurgents. The Taliban concede some losses, but say the reported toll is a lie.

In a separate incident, the government said two officials from the ministry of rural development were kidnapped by unidentified gunmen on Monday in the southwestern province of Nimroz .

Nimroz is not far from the Taliban’s main bastion in the south, but is also a key drug route rife with bandits.

Just days after releasing 19 South Korean hostages after striking a deal with Seoul , the Taliban vowed on Monday to abduct and kill more nationals from foreign countries whose troops serve under NATO and the U.S. military in the country.

A senior Taliban commander told a Reuters reporter on condition of anonymity at the weekend that the deal also included a ransom payment of more than $20 million, which would be used to buy weapons and fund suicide attacks.

The commander’s comments followed widespread rumours of a ransom in Afghanistan and South Korea .

Several Afghan officials said privately a ransom was paid, and a foreign diplomat said the negotiations began with $20 million.

Both the South Korean government and a Taliban spokesman deny a ransom was paid but when asked about the idea earlier, a spokesman for South Korea ‘s president did not answer directly, saying only that the government had done what was necessary.

The Taliban killed two of the male Korean hostages long before the deal was struck.

Violence has surged in the past 19 months in Afghanistan , the bloodiest period since U.S.-led troops overthrew the Taliban’s government in 2001 in retaliation for the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States . More than 7,000 people have been killed during that period.