Karzai: Korean kidnappings 'shameful'

July 30, 2007 - 0:0

KABUL (AP) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai called the kidnapping of 23 South Koreans by Taliban militants ""shameful"" on Sunday, noting that abducting women in particular was un-Islamic. A purported Taliban spokesman set a new deadline for the hostages' lives.

In his first comments since the July 19 kidnapping, Karzai also assured a South Korean presidential envoy that the government will ""spare no effort"" to secure the hostages' release. ""This (kidnapping) will have a shameful effect on the dignity of the Afghan people,"" Karzai said, according to a statement after his talks with South Korean presidential envoy Baek Jong-chun. ""(The president) explained that hostage-taking and abuse of foreign guests, especially women, is against Islam and the Afghan culture and the perpetration of this heinous act on our soil is in total contempt of our Islamic and Afghan values,"" Karzai's office said. Baek thanked Karzai for the Afghan government's help and said Seoul will respect the Afghan government's way of ending the crisis, according to the statement. The South Korean church members were kidnapped while traveling by bus on the Kabul-Kandahar highway, Afghanistan's main thoroughfare. The Taliban shot and killed a male church member last week. The 22 other hostages, including 18 women, remain captive. The alleged Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said the militant group had given a list of 23 insurgent prisoners it wants released in exchange for the hostages and was waiting for the government to act. He said the militants might kill some hostages if the prisoners weren't released by midday Monday local time (early Monday morning EDT). ""We might kill one, we might kill two, we might kill four, or we might kill all of the hostages,"" Ahmadi said. Several previous Taliban deadlines have passed without consequence. Taliban members had told Afghan officials earlier that the hostage who was shot was sick and could not walk. Afghan officials, meanwhile, reported no progress in talks with tribal elders to secure the release of the hostages. Afghanistan's national council of clerics said Sunday that the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, taught that no one has the right to kill women, children or elders. ""Even in the history of Afghanistan, in all its combat and fighting, Afghans respected women, children and elders,"" the council said. ""Killing of women is against Islam, against the Afghan culture, and they shouldn't do it."" Two days of meetings between elders of Qarabagh district in Ghazni province, where the South Korean hostages were kidnapped, and a delegation of senior officials from Kabul, yielded no results so far, said Shirin Mangal, spokesman for the Ghazni provincial governor. Ahmadi complained Saturday that the elders don't ""have the power to release prisoners"" — the key Taliban demand. The hostages are being held in small groups in different locations and some are in poor health, Ahmadi said earlier