Ghazni - Two women among 21 Koreans held by the Taliban in Afghanistan are
seriously ill, a rebel spokesman said on Wednesday before the insurgents' 3:30
am EDT (0730GMT) deadline for Kabul to free prisoners in return for the hostages.
Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousuf said Afghan negotiators had not
contacted the militants who have threatened to kill the hostages if the Afghan
government fails to release a group of Taliban prisoners by the deadline.
"The majority of the hostages are
ill, but two females are seriously ill and there is this possibility that
they may die," Yousuf told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.
Family members of the
kidnapped South Koreans in Afghanistan cry during a news conference
demanding for the safe return of the hostages in front of the US embassy
in Seoul August 1, 2007. [Reuters]
He said the pair suffered from an unknown illness and the Taliban did not
have the right medicines to treat them.
The Taliban were looking after the remaining South Koreans from a group of 23
Christians kidnapped from a bus in Ghazni province two weeks ago, he added. The
Islamic movement killed two of the male hostages after previous deadlines
Afghan officials have said no deal will be struck with the Taliban and demand
the unconditional release of the remaining captives, 18 of them women.
President Hamid Karzai came under sharp criticism after releasing a group of
Taliban prisoners in March in return for the freedom of an Italian journalist.
The abduction of the Koreans comes after 18 months of rising violence in
Afghanistan, the bloodiest period since the Taliban were ousted from power by
US-led and Afghan forces in 2001.
A day before seizing the Koreans, the Taliban abducted two German aid workers
and five of their Afghan colleagues in Wardak province which like Ghazni
lies to the southwest of Kabul.
Family members of the
kidnapped South Koreans in Afghanistan react during a news conference
demanding the safe return of the hostages in front of the US embassy in
Seoul August 1, 2007. [Reuters]
One of the Germans was found shot dead this week and one of the Afghans
managed to escape. The other German and four Afghans were still being held.
The Taliban demand that Germany pulls its 3,000-strong force under NATO's
command out of Afghanistan as the main condition for freeing the other German.
Al Jazeera showed a man against a rocky backdrop in a hilly area, a militant
covering him with a rocket-propelled grenade.
The station did not play the sound of the video, but a presenter said: "The
German hostage Rudolf B. ... urged Germany and the United States to pull out
their forces from Afghanistan and urged his country to help save his life and
secure his return to his homeland and family."
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Berlin will not give in to the
Separately, the Taliban have killed four Afghan judges they kidnapped in
Ghazni two weeks ago, a provincial official said on Wednesday. The bodies of the
four, killed on Tuesday night, were found to the south of the town of Ghazni on
Wednesday, he added.