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S Korean Hostages To Fly Back To Korea Today

From the fans of the Taliban at the Associated Press:

South Korean hostages go home from Afghanistan

Friday, August 31, 2007

KABUL: Nineteen South Koreans freed by Taliban kidnappers prepared to fly home Friday as their government denied allegations that it paid a ransom to end the six-week hostage standoff.

A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said the militant group planned to abduct more foreigners, reinforcing fears that South Korea’s decision to negotiate directly with the militants would embolden them at a time of surging violence in the country.

“We will do the same thing with the other allies in Afghanistan, because we found this way to be successful,” he said via cellphone from an undisclosed location.

The 19 hostages, all church volunteers seized as they traveled by bus in southern Afghanistan on July 19, were freed in separate handovers on Wednesday and Thursday under the terms of a deal struck between the Taliban and South Korean government representatives…

Under the terms of agreement Tuesday, Seoul repeated a pledge it had made long before the kidnappings to withdraw its 200 troops in Afghanistan before year’s end and vowed to prevent missionaries traveling to the country…

A senior Afghan official close to the negotiations alleged Friday the South Koreans also paid a ransom.

“Definitely there was money, but I don’t know how much. I do not want to lie,” said the official on condition of anonymity, because of the sensitivity of the topic.

Cheon dismissed the claim, which other Afghan officials have also aired in recent days.

“There is no additional agreement other than what has been made public,” he said.

The Taliban have repeatedly denied receiving any money.

Rumors of multimillion-dollar ransom payments have swirled around other deals to release foreign hostages held by criminal gangs or the Taliban in Afghanistan, but they are difficult to prove, not least because neither side has any interest in acknowledging them…

The final three released – two women and a man – were handed over by armed men on a main road in the Janda district after apparently walking through the desert for some distance. Covered in dust, they were quickly bundled into a Red Cross vehicle and driven away.

The men accompanying the three gave an unsigned note to journalists accusing the South Koreans of coming to Afghanistan on a mission to convert the staunchly Islamic country to Christianity.

“They came to our nation to change our faith,” the handwritten note read. “The Afghan people have given their lives for their faith. This is the reason we arrested them.”

In Washington, the State Department welcomed the hostages’ release. When asked if South Korea’s negotiations with the Taliban set a dangerous precedent, a spokesman refrained from directly criticizing the Seoul government.

“I’d simply reiterate that the long-standing U.S. policy,” he said, is “not to make concessions to terrorists.” …

While one is glad for the hostages’ release, it is a near certainty that the South Koreans paid the Taliban a sizeable ransom, in addition to promising to remove all their support for the allies’ mission in Afghanistan by the end of the year.

Terrorism wins again. 

This article was posted by Steve on Friday, August 31st, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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