Taliban says not releasing SKorean hostages

Afghanistan’s Taliban has decided not to free any of 21 South Korean hostages despite earlier saying two women could go, the Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported Sunday citing an insurgents’ spokesman.

Yonhap quoted Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi as saying: “Our leaders have changed their minds and decided not to free two female hostages.”

South Korean officials refused to confirm the report.

After face-to-face talks between the Taliban and a South Korean delegation, Ahmadi told AFP late Saturday that the two women, who are reported to be ill, were being released unconditionally as a “gesture of goodwill.”

The Taliban abducted 23 Christian aid workers in volatile southern Ghazni province on July 19. Two male hostages have been shot dead, and the insurgents have threatened to kill the rest unless captured militants are released from jail in exchange for their lives.

But Kabul, backed by Washington, has refused to accept that demand, fearing it would only encourage more kidnappings.

The government in Seoul, meanwhile, says it is powerless to bring about a prisoner release.

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