Taliban Releases Two South Korean Women Hostages

Officials in Seoul say Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan have freed two South Korean women hostages and that they have been handed over to the Red Crescent.

Reuters witnesses said the two women arrived in the village of Arzoo, near the city of Ghazni, in a saloon car driven by two tribal elders.

"We saw them getting into a Red Crescent vehicle," one of the witnesses said.

"They were able to walk and appeared to be well, but they were very emotional and were crying."

South Korea's Foreign Ministry confirmed that two Korean women were freed.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) also confirmed it handed over the two South Korean women hostages held by the Taliban to a South Korean delegation in Afghanistan.

The ICRC said in played a key role as intermediary in the women's release.

"The ICRC is relieved that two hostages have been released and that they can now rejoin their families back home," Reto Stocker said, head of the agency's delegation in the Afghan capital of Kabul.

A Taliban spokesman said the decision to free the pair had been made by the Taliban leadership council, headed by Mullah Mohammad Omar, as a gesture of goodwill towards the Korean people and South Korean diplomats negotiating for the hostages' release.

The pair are the first of the hostages to be released by the Taliban kidnappers since the group of 23 Korean church volunteers were abducted from a bus in Ghazni province on the main road south from the capital Kabul more than three weeks ago.

The Taliban have killed two male hostages and threatened to kill the rest unless a similar number of Taliban prisoners are freed in exchange.

The Afghan government has refused to give in to the demand, saying that would just encourage more kidnapping.

The Taliban now hold 19 Korean hostages, 16 of them women.


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