Taleban issues another hostage deadline

August 1, 2007 - 0:0

GHAZNI, Afghanistan (AP) -- Police at daybreak Tuesday discovered the body of a second South Korean hostage slain by the Taleban, officials said. A purported spokesman for the group said the man was killed because the Afghan government failed to release imprisoned insurgents.

The Taleban threatened to kill more hostages if their demands were not met by the latest of several deadlines — noon on Wednesday.
The South Korean Foreign Ministry confirmed that 29-year-old Shim Sung-min's body had been found. The former information technology worker was volunteering with a South Korean church group on an aid mission to Afghanistan; 21 others remain captive.
""The government expresses deep condolences to his family,"" Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Hee-yong said. ""We cannot contain our anger at this merciless killing and strongly condemn this.""
The body was found on the side of the road in the village of Arizo Kalley in Andar District, some 6 miles west of Ghazni city, said Abdul Rahim Deciwal, the chief administrator in the area.
A purported Taleban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said senior Taleban leaders decided to kill the male captive Monday evening because the government had not met Taleban demands to trade prisoners for the Christian volunteers, who were in their 13th day of captivity Tuesday.
""The Kabul and Korean governments are lying and cheating. They did not meet their promise of releasing Taleban prisoners,"" Ahmadi, who claims to speak for the Taleban, said by phone from an undisclosed location.
The Taleban commanders set a new deadline of noon on Wednesday.
""If the Kabul government does not release the Taleban prisoners, then we will kill after 12 o'clock — we are going to kill Korean hostages,"" Ahmadi said. ""It might be a man or a woman ... It might be one. It might be two, four. It might be all of them.""
The Al-Jazeera television network, meanwhile, showed shaky footage of what it said were several South Korean hostages. It did not say how it obtained the video, whose authenticity could not immediately be verified.
Some seven female hostages, heads veiled in accordance with the Islamic law enforced by the Taleban, were seen crouching in the dark, eyes closed or staring at the ground, expressionless.
The hostages did not speak as they were filmed by the hand-held camera.
The Taleban 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 U.S.-led invasion.
The Taleban has set several deadlines for the Koreans' lives. Last Wednesday the insurgents killed their first hostage, a male leader of the group.
The body of pastor Bae Hyung-kyu arrived back in South Korea on Monday, where the families of the remaining hostages pleaded for their loved ones' release.
Relatives have gathered at Saemmul Community Church in Bundang, just outside Seoul. They waited anxiously for developments — sharing prayers, meals and sleepless nights as they followed 24-hour television newscasts.
Seo Jung-bae, 59, whose daughter and son were among the hostages, appealed to the Taleban.
""Please, please send my children back so I can hold them in my arms,"" he told The Associated Press, fighting back tears in a plea to the captors. ""Our families are the same. Your family is precious, so is mine.""
Speaking from an emergency center set up by the church, he said his children had traveled to the country to assist Afghans in need. ""They went there to help, thinking they (Afghans) are their friends.""
It's not clear if the Afghan government would consider releasing any militant prisoners.
In March, President Hamid Karzai approved a deal that saw five captive Taleban fighters freed for the release of Italian reporter Daniele Mastrogiacomo. Karzai, who was criticized by the United States and European capitals over the exchange, called the trade a one-time deal.
On Sunday, Karzai and other Afghan officials tried to shame the Taleban into releasing the female captives by appealing to a tradition of cultural hospitality and chivalry. They called the kidnapping of women ""unIslamic.""
On Monday, South Korean officials changed their estimate of the number of women captives to 16, down from earlier reports of 18.