ASEAN calls for release of South Korean hostages


Manila : East Asian foreign ministers Tuesday called for the immediate release of the remaining 21 South Korean hostages in Afghanistan after the body of a second captive allegedly killed by the Taliban was found.

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The ministers were meeting in Manila as part of the 40th Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Ministerial Meeting.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo, who is chairing the meetings, said the foreign ministers agreed to call for the "early and unconditional release of the remaining South Korean hostages in Afghanistan".

The ministers also expressed condolences to the families of the slain hostages and the Korean people.

The Taliban kidnapped 23 South Koreans riding on a bus through Ghazni province on the Kabul-Kandahar highway on July 19, the largest group of foreign hostages taken in Afghanistan since the 2001 US-led invasion.

The hostages were members of a South Korean Christian church group on an aid mission in Afghanistan.

The Taliban has set several deadlines for the Koreans' lives. Last Wednesday, the insurgents killed their first hostage, a male leader of the group. On Tuesday, police said they have found the bullet-riddled body of another slain South Korean.

The East Asia ministers attending the meetings in Manila are ASEAN members Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Burma, as well as China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India.