South Korea resumes direct hostage talks with Taliban


Seoul/Kabul : South Korean officials Saturday resumed direct talks with representatives of the Taliban for a second session in an effort to secure the release of 21 South Korean hostages abducted in Afghanistan, the Taliban said.

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The spokesman confirmed South Korean reports that the first direct talks between the two sides had taken place Friday evening.

“At 6.15 p.m. last night (local time) the meeting between Taliban delegates and South Korean officials started,” Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousif Ahmadi told DPA by telephone from an undisclosed location.

“The meeting resumed today (Saturday) and is going on at the same place where it started last night,” Ahmadi said.

The militia had Friday said that two of its leaders, Mullah Nasrullah and Mullah Mohammad Bashir, had been appointed by “Taliban Supreme Council” to carry out the negotiations with the South Korean representatives.

The group said that the Afghan government had guaranteed the safety of the Taliban negotiators at the venue.

Ahmadi said the team had been discussing the exchange of the Taliban’s comrades in Afghan custody with the hostages, and the possible pullout of some 200 South Korean troops from Afghanistan.

“In the meeting we are speaking regarding our two demands,” Ahmadi said. “One is the pullout of the Korean troops from Afghanistan and the second demand is to release our prisoners in exchange for the freedom of the hostages.”

The Afghan government has vowed not to bow to the Taliban’s demands and warned that they would use force if they matter is not resolved peacefully.

Ahmadi did not say that how long the meeting would last but he said he hoped that it would yield a positive result later on Saturday.

The Taliban kidnapped 23 South Korean Christian health aid volunteers on July 19 in the eastern province of Ghazni as they were travelling by bus from Kabul to the southern Kandahar province.

They have since killed two of the five male hostages after initial deadlines expired.