S. Korean Hostages Said to be Healthy

( [email protected] ) Aug 24, 2007 08:46 AM EDT

The remaining 19 Korean aid volunteers held hostage in Afghanistan are reportedly in good health, reporters were told Friday by an Afghan doctor who is in regular contact with a senior Taliban commander.

Dr. Mohammad Hashim Wahaaj, who delivered medicine to the Taliban for the sick Koreans, said that although he has not been allowed to treat the hostages, he was, however, in regular telephone contact with Mullah Mansor – the Taliban commander in the area where the South Korean church group was kidnapped on July 19, according to The Associated Press.

Wahaaj said Mansor told him the Korean hostages “were fine and have no medical problems,” although earlier reports this week from a purported Taliban spokesman said some of the hostages were sick.

Mansor also said the Koreans were split up into several groups and moved every “six to eight hours” to stay ahead of Afghan security forces.

Wahaaj said he is working to help the hostages by his own initiative, and the Afghan government has said it has no objection to his efforts.

It has been over a month since the Taliban militants abducted the group of 23 South Korean Christian volunteers – the largest abduction of foreigners in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.

During that period, two male hostages have been killed – the leader of the group, Bae Hyung-kyu, who was found dead on July 25, and 29-year-old Shim Sung-min, whose body was found July 30.

Last week, the rebels released two females – 37-year-old Kim Kyung-ja and 32-year-old Kim Ji-na – as a “gesture of goodwill” when talks were initially going well. Since their release, however, negotiations have been deadlocked over the exchange of rebel fighters for hostages.

The two freed Korean women in their first one-on-one interview broadcasted Thursday on the Arab news network Al Jazeera pleaded for the release of their colleagues. Both said they were unhappy despite of their freedom, knowing that their colleagues are still being held by the rebels. The former hostages said they were not treated badly by their captors who gave them basic necessities such as food, medicine, and some blankets.

Wahaaj has also appealed to the rebels to treat the German hostage who appeared sick and in pain on Afghan television on Thursday.

“We want this person to be treated,” Wahaaj said, according to AP. “If he is healthy, you (the Taliban) can still talk. If he dies, you will lose everything.”