Tue, Jul 31, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Body of slain S Korean pastor returns home

AS THE NATION WAITS Bae Hyung-kyu's body will remain at a hospital south of Seoul and a funeral will be held only after the remaining hostages have been freed

AFP , SEOUL

Bae Hyung-kyu's wife, Kim Hee-yeon, left, and brother Bae Shin-kyu react as they met relatives of the kidnapped in Sungnam, South Korea, yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

The body of a South Korean pastor killed by Taliban kidnappers in Afghanistan was to return home yesterday but his family said no funeral will be held until all the other 22 captives are freed.

Bae Hyung-kyu, 42, had led the group of aid workers from a Seoul church which was seized in the southern province of Ghazni on July 19.

His body, with 10 bullet wounds, was found last Wednesday after the Taliban said they had killed him because talks had stalled. He was married and had a nine-year-old daughter.

The militants threatened on Sunday to start killing the other South Koreans unless the Afghan government accepted their demand for the release of jailed rebels by 7:30am yesterday.

"An Emirates flight carrying the body is scheduled to arrive at Incheon Airport at 4:45pm," Bae's brother Shin-kyu told reporters.

He said it will be kept at a hospital in Anyang, south of Seoul, and a funeral will be only held after the remaining hostages are freed.

The brother said he would not go to the airport but join relatives of other hostages in praying for their release.

The hospital's chief, Park Sang-eun, said the pastor left him a will before leaving for Afghanistan, saying that his body should be donated for medical research if he is killed there.

A spokesman for the families, who are exhausted by their 11-day ordeal, said they are struggling to stay calm amid conflicting reports on their loved ones.

"We will remain calm without having emotional ups and downs at the changing situation, including the Taliban's extension of the deadline for negotiations and the release of captives' interviews to the media," said Cha Sung-min, whose brother is among the captives.

In the latest interview, Lee Ji-young told JoongAng Ilbo newspaper the captives have been split into small groups which are moved frequently.

The Taliban have said they had been divided into small groups and were being held in three different provinces, to try to thwart any rescue mission.

In the interview given on Sunday and published yesterday, Lee said she was with a group of three others who are "OK at the moment" but they did not know how the others are faring.

"We move sometimes once a day and sometimes every two or three days," Lee said.

She said the kidnappers had made no particular threat and told her parents: "Don't worry too much about me."

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