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Taliban offers to swap Korean hostages for female prisoners

RIA Novosti

07/08/2007 11:37 TOKYO, August 7 (RIA Novosti) - Taliban militants proposed Tuesday that two female South Korean hostages be released in exchange for the same number of Taliban women, currently being held in Afghan prisons, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said.

Yonhap said the proposal came from Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi amid reports that two South Korean hostages were seriously ill.

"We do not know the exact number of Taliban women imprisoned by the Afghan government, but if (Kabul) lets them go, we will release the same number of female hostages," Yonhap quoted Ahmadi as saying.

The Taliban kidnapped 23 South Koreans on July 19, when they were traveling by bus from Kabul to Kandahar on a humanitarian mission.

Taliban militants have already executed two men and threatened to kill others, many of whom are women, if the South Korean military contingent does not leave Afghanistan and the Afghan government does not release its imprisoned fighters.

Ahmadi said the jailed women were simple Taliban supporters convicted of providing food or shelter to Taliban fighters.

Meanwhile, the Afghan government is unwilling to release Taliban prisoners believing that this move will lead to more kidnappings.

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