Taliban militants in Afghanistan who took 23 South Korean Christians hostage, have reportedly killed one of them after losing patience with negotiations, claimed their unofficial spokesman.
"Since Kabul's administration did not listen to our demand and did not free our prisoners, the Taliban shot dead a male Korean hostage,” Qari Yousef Ahmadi, the alleged news representative for the Taliban, told Reuters by phone from an unknown location.
Ahmadi said earlier that the insurgents would kill “a few” of the hostages before 5:30 a.m. EDT after talks over the fate of the 23 South Korean Christian hostages had stalled. Three deadlines have passed since the Koreans were abducted last Thursday, with the latest being Tuesday 10:30 a.m. EDT.
“The Taliban have lost their patience with it all so they will be killed…because a lot of time has passed since the deadline and there has been no response,” Ahmadi told AP by satellite phone before the news of a first killing was reported. “The Taliban takes no responsibility for the killing.”
The threat came as a surprise to Ali Shah Ahmadzai, the police chief of the Ghazni province where the hostages were captured, who said negotiations were moving in a positive direction.
“I don’t know why they’ve suddenly changed their mind,” Ahmadzai said, according to AP. Several of Ahmadi’s past statements have turned out false or contradicted other statements by Taliban, leading some to question the reliability of his information.
“My message to the Taliban is to use tolerance and be patient,” the provincial police chief said. “This (killing hostages) is against the Afghan culture.”
It has been nearly a week since the group of South Korean Christians was kidnapped while riding in a bus to the southern city of Kandahar, where they planned to do medical work and teach English.
The militants have accused the Koreans of being on an evangelistic mission, but South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun as well as the senior pastor of the hostages’ home church, the Rev. Park Eun-jo, emphasized that the volunteers were there to provide free medical or educational services with no missionary intentions.
The Taliban is demanding for the Afghan government to release a similar number of Taliban prisoners and for South Korea to remove its 200 troops from the country in exchange for the captives.
So far, the Afghan government has not agreed to release the prisoners and South Korea has emphasized that the troops, who are mostly doing humanitarian work, will leave Afghanistan by the end of the year as scheduled.
The kidnapping of the 23 South Korean Christians is the largest abduction of a group of foreigners in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.