Kabul/Seoul : The extremist Taliban rebels holding 21 South Korean hostages in Afghanistan threatened Monday to pursue kidnappings “with more fervour” even if the Afghanistan government complies with their demands.
“The Kabul government agrees with the exchange of the prisoners or not, we will proceed with more fervour the kidnappings and if they don’t exchange the prisoners, it can’t stop us from our decision to kidnap more,” purported Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yusif Ahmadi told DPA.
Before travelling to the United States Sunday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai reiterated his refusal to comply with the Taliban’s demands, saying he would do everything in his power to secure the South Koreans’ release, but would not strengthen the Taliban’s cause by exchanging prisoners.
The Taliban is demanding the release of eight rebels in exchange for the 21 remaining hostages, frustrating South Korea as the Afghan and US governments refuse to swap Taliban prisoners for hostages.
Since the group of 23 Christians were abducted on July 19, the Taliban have executed at least two of the hostages.
The health of the remaining hostages was deteriorating, Ahmadi said Monday, denying reports that medicine and doctors had been supplied by the authorities to the Taliban. The Taliban had organized medicine and doctors themselves, he said.
After three weeks of efforts South Korean diplomats made direct telephone contact with at least one of 21 South Korean hostages in Afghanistan, a government official said Monday.
The communication between the South Korean embassy in Kabul and the hostage occurred on Saturday, though the identity of the hostage or details of the conversation were not released.
Meanwhile, negotiations continue for direct talks with the Taliban militants for the hostages’ release. At issue is the location of the meeting.
Karzai arrived Sunday in the US for meetings with US President George W. Bush and was expected to hold a press conference Monday.