Seoul calls for release of hostages, two freed


Kabul/Seoul : The South Korean government Monday confirmed that two abducted women had been released by the radical Islamic Taliban movement in Afghanistan and called for the release of the remaining 19 of its citizens held hostage.

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“We are relieved that at least two hostages have been released,” said a foreign ministry spokesman in Seoul.

The two women were identified as 32-year-old Kim Ji Na and 37-year-old Kim Kyung Ja. After receiving medical attention in a South Korean military base in Bagram around 100 km north of Kabul, both were to be flown home as soon as possible.

Mehrajuddin Patan, the governor of Ghazni province, where the hostages are being held, told DPA that the women “are sick but their condition is not seriously bad,” adding that they could walk.

According to Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousif Ahmadi, the Taliban kidnappers decided to release the two hostages because the pair were very sick and the Taliban had no medicine for them.

“The two sick Korean women were released … in Arizo village and were handed over to ICRC workers acting as mediators in the presence of journalists,” said Ahmadi. “They were released based on the decision made by our supreme council.”

Ahmadi said talks between the two Taliban representatives and delegates from Seoul were also ongoing and he hoped that they would reach a “positive result soon.”

The insurgents are demanding an exchange of the hostages for some of its members being held in Afghan jails and the withdrawal of South Korea’s 200 troops from the 37-country security force in Afghanistan.

A total of 23 South Korean Christian health workers were snatched last month while travelling in the eastern Ghazni province on the main road from Kabul to Kandahar.

Two of the five male hostages were executed when deadlines elapsed for the release of the Taliban prisoners.

South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun on Monday directed his ministers to do everything in their power to obtain the release of the captives.

The South Korean government would continue its cooperation with the Afghan government and the international community for the safe return of the remaining hostages, the presidential office in Seoul reported.