Taliban to release South Koreans

AP/Washington Post:

The Taliban agreed Tuesday to free 19 South Korean church volunteers held hostage since July after the government in Seoul agreed to end all missionary work and keep a promise to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year.

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The Taliban originally seized 23 South Koreans, but have since killed two of the hostages and released two others. They had initially demanded the withdrawal of South Korean troops from the country and the release of prisoners in exchange for freeing the hostages.

Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, said South Korean and Taliban delegates at face-to-face talks Tuesday in the central town of Ghazni had "reached an agreement" to free the captives.

South Korean presidential spokesman Cheon Ho-sun said the deal had been reached "on the condition that South Korea withdraws troops by the end of year and South Korea suspends missionary work in Afghanistan," he said.

South Korea has already said it planned to withdraw its troops by the end of the year. Some 200 South Korean soldiers have been deployed in Afghanistan for reconstruction efforts, not combat.

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While the Taliban did not get much out of this deal it was probably enough for them to keep on using the cowardly tactic of kidnapping non combatants and extorting concessions for their return. It is a bad deal in that regard.

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