The Taliban said Friday that it will not kill any of the remaining 21 South Korean hostages before its face-to-face meetings with the delegation from the East Asian country.
Nearly a dozen deadlines and numerous threats thereafter to kill the Christian captives have been made since their abduction on July 19.
With a deadlock in negotiations over the Taliban’s proposed prisoner-rebel exchange, the militant group has been working with South Korea on setting up a face-to-face meeting to discuss other options. Yet despite their agreement to meet, a location has not yet been set where both parties feel safe.
On Friday, purported Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi assured The Associated Press by phone from an undisclosed location that ”[u]ntil we sit for face-to-face negotiations with the Koreans, we have no plans to kill any Korean hostages.”
Meanwhile, South Korea has declared that all Korean aid groups will leave Afghanistan within one month on Wednesday as part of its effort to secure the release of the Korean hostages.
South Korean ambassador Kang Sung-zu also told Pashtun tribal leaders, who gathered at the South Korean embassy in Kabul, that Korea will not allow anymore of its citizens or aid groups to enter Afghanistan, according to Afghan TV station Tolo. The Pashtun tribal leaders are said to be from the same ethnic tribe as the majority of the Taliban rebels.
However, the ambassador noted that Korean organizations may return to Afghanistan in the future after the hostages are release and if the Afghan government guarantees their safety.
The Taliban’s purported spokesman said the departure of South Korean aid workers will help move negotiations forward.
“The pulling out of Korean aid workers will have an effect on our negotiations progress because pulling out of Koreans from Afghanistan is part of our demand,” said Ahmadi, according to AP. “It will have a positive effect,” he said, without elaborating.
In South Korea, the hostage families said that the mothers of several hostages – five women and a translator – will leave for the emirate of Dubai next Monday to plead for help from the Arab world for the release of their children, according to The Korea Times.
“The reason why we are sending women, especially mothers, to Dubai is that Islamic culture has more sympathy for women,” said the hostage families’ spokesman, Cha Sung-min, on Friday, according to AP.
On July 19, the Taliban abducted 23 Korean Christian volunteers in insurgency-plagued Ghazni province. Out of the aid group, 16 are females, according to Agence France-Presse. The church group was on its way to provide free medical services to poor Afghan citizens when their bus was hijacked.
Since their kidnapping, two male hostages have been killed. The leader of the aid group, Bae Hyung-kyu, was the first victim, found dead July 25 with 10 bullet holes in his body. The second victim, 29-year-old Shim Sung-min, was killed last Monday and his funeral ceremony was this past Saturday.
The kidnapping of the 23 Korean Christians was the largest abduction of foreigners in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.