Taliban gunmen abducted at least 18 members of a
South Korean church group in southern Afghanistan, and a purported spokesman for
the Islamic militia said Friday it will question them about their activities in
Afghanistan before deciding their fate.
Afghan policemen stand guard near the
site of a suicide attack in Fayzabad, the capital of Badakshan province,
north of Kabul, Afghanistan on Thursday, July 19, 2007. A suicide bomber
blew himself up outside a police station in northern Afghanistan on
Thursday, killing one civilian and wounding 25 other people, as roadside
bomb killed two policemen in the south, officials said.
The Koreans were seized Thursday in Ghazni province as they were traveling by
bus from Kabul to the southern city of Kandahar, said Ali Shah Ahmadzai, the
provincial police chief.
"We are investigating, who are they, what are they doing in Afghanistan,"
Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, a purported Taliban spokesman, told The Associated Press by
satellite telephone. "After our investigation, the Taliban higher authorities
will make a decision about their fate. Right now they are safe and sound."
The South Koreans' bus driver, released late Thursday, said there were 18
women and five men on the bus, Ahmadzai said. The Taliban spokesman said 15
women and three men were seized. The discrepancy could not be immediately
The abductions came a day after two Germans and five of Afghan colleagues
working on a dam project were kidnapped in central Wardak province. Ahmadi said
the Taliban were also holding the two Germans, and threatened to kill them if
Germany did not pull out its troops serving in the NATO-led force in the next 24
Meanwhile, two separate bombings in southern Afghanistan left five civilians
dead, while a Taliban ambush killed six police officers, officials said.
¡¤A car bomb targeting a U.S.-led coalition convoy in Helmand province's
Sangin district killed two civilians and wounded two coalition troops, said Sgt.
1st Class Dean Welch, a coalition spokesman.
¡¤ A mine exploded under a civilian car in Kandahar province's Zhari
district, killing three civilians in it, said Sayed Afghan Saqib, Kandahar's
¡¤ In Helmand's Marja district, Taliban militants ambushed police
Thursday, leaving six officers dead and two others wounded, said Muhammad
Hussein, the provincial police chief.
Violence has soared in Afghanistan in recent weeks. More than 3,300 people
have died in insurgency-related violence this year, according to an AP count
based on numbers from Afghan and Western officials.
In the church member kidnapping, several dozen Taliban fighters stopped the
bus and drove it into the desert before abandoning the vehicle and forcing the
group to walk, Ahmadzai said. The driver was handed over to local villagers,
while the fate of Koreans remains unknown, he said.
It was unclear what the Koreans were doing in Afghanistan.
South Korea's Foreign Ministry confirmed that about 20 South Koreans were
kidnapped near the Afghan capital Thursday afternoon.
"The government plans to do exert every possible effort so that our kidnapped
citizens can return safely as soon as possible," ministry spokesman Cho Hee-yong
told reporters in Seoul.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported the hostages were members of the
Saemmul Community Church in Bundang, just south of the South Korean capital,
An official at the Presbyterian church confirmed 20 of its members were in
Afghanistan for volunteer work. The group left South Korea on July 13 and was to
return on July 23, she said, speaking on condition of anonymity because she was
not authorized to talk to the media.
Germany's Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, said it was "aware of the statement by
the so-called spokesman of the Taliban."
"At the same time, we have a conflicting statement from a Taliban spokesman
from yesterday. He indicated that the kidnapped Germans are not in the hands of
the Taliban," said Martin Jaeger, a spokesman for the German Foreign Ministry.
"(Our) crisis team continues to work toward a swift release of the two kidnapped
Outmatched by foreign troops, Taliban have resorted to kidnapping civilians
caught traveling treacherous roads, particularly in the country's south, where
the insurgency is raging.
The tactic enables the militants to undermine President Hamid Karzai's
government by discouraging foreigners involved in reconstruction projects from
venturing outside Afghanistan's main cities.