Sun, Jul 22, 2007 - Page 5 News List

German hostages executed: Taliban

MORE CAPTIVES Seoul urged the release of 18 South Korean hostages, saying it is already scheduled to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year

AFP , KABUL AND SEOUL

A group of South Korean Christians poses for a photo before leaving for Afghanistan on July 13 at Incheon International Airport in South Korea in this image made from television via Yonhap.

PHOTO: AP

A Taliban spokesman in Afghanistan said yesterday the insurgent group had killed a second German hostage in a day after the Afghan and German governments failed to contact them for negotiations. However, an Afghan foreign ministry spokesman denied the hostages had been killed.

"Since the governments did not contact us, we killed the second German hostage at 1:10pm," Yousuf Ahmadi said by telephone.

"According to information from Afghan security organizations, one of the hostages died of a heart attack and the second is still alive," foreign ministry spokesman Sultan Ahmad Baheen said.

Ahmadi earlier set two Taliban deadlines and announced both killings after they passed. The claims could not be independently confirmed, and the Taliban spokesman offered no hard evidence.

Announcing the first killing, he said: "We executed one of the Germans and will kill the other one unless the government of Germany or the Afghan government contact us for negotiations at 1pm today [yesterday]."

The Islamist rebel group -- which also abducted 18 South Koreans this week -- earlier threatened to kill the two Germans unless Berlin withdraws 3,000 military personnel from the country, where they serve under NATO command.

Ahmadi also said the militants were demanding the release of all Taliban prisoners in the country.

The two Germans were kidnapped on Wednesday in Afghanistan's Wardak Province, 100km south of Kabul, along with five Afghans. Local sources said the men, whose identities have not been revealed, were engineers.

Ahmadi, in a morning phone call, said the Taliban had not yet decided on the fate of the 18 South Korean Christian evangelists also taken hostage in the insurgency-hit south of Afghanistan.

Reports earlier said the Taliban has threatened to kill the kidnapped Christians, and that the extremist movement has called for their country's troops to also pull out of Afghanistan immediately.

Meanwhile, South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun yesterday urged for the immediate release of the kidnapped South Koreans, as Seoul said it would withdraw troops from the war-torn country by the end of the year.

The appeal was made a few hours before a Taliban spokesman said the rebel group had killed two German hostages because the Afghanistan or German governments had failed to contact them for negotiations.

"The kidnappers must return the South Koreans unharmed at the earliest possible date," Roh said in a speech on national television.

Roh stressed that the abducted South Koreans had been engaged in aid activity for Afghan people.

"Innocent civilians must not be held as hostages," he said.

Roh also said all South Korean troops stationed in Afghanistan were either army engineers or medics helping to reconstruct the war-ravaged nation rather than engaged in combat.

Roh afterwards telephoned Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and called for Kabul's cooperation.

South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon said yesterday that Seoul would withdraw the troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year as planned.

"Under the existing plan, we have only several months to go before the troops complete their mission and pull out," he said.

"They move as dictated by the military plan," he said.

The 18 Koreans left on July 13 for Afghanistan to "do evangelical activity and volunteer work."

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