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2007/07/30 18:43 KST
(LEAD) Taliban commander reportedly says Korean hostage talks failed, vows to kill captives

By Byun Duk-kun
SEOUL, July 30 (Yonhap) -- An unidentified commander of the Taliban on Monday said negotiations with the Afghan government for the lives of 22 South Korean hostages have completely failed and that the Taliban militants would start killing the hostages, the Afghan Islamic Press reported.

   The reported remarks from the purported Taliban commander came after the Afghan government refused to release Taliban prisoners in exchange for the South Korean captives by a 0730 GMT deadline.

   South Korean officials in Seoul, however, said "various contacts" between the Afghan government and the Taliban were still underway.

   The Taliban commander, who refused to give his name, said the talks have "completely" failed and that the Taliban militants have decided to kill the hostages, according to the AIP report.

   Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, a purported spokesman for the militant group, on Sunday said the Taliban leadership had decided to kill "some" of the hostages if Kabul failed to release a corresponding number of Taliban prisoners by the deadline.

   Attempts to reach the purported spokesman for confirmation went unanswered as the spokesman appeared to have turned off his satellite phone.

   Twenty-three South Koreans were seized on July 19 while traveling on a highway from the Afghan capital Kabul to the southern city of Kandahar to do aid work there. The leader of the group, 42-year-old pastor Bae Hyung-kyu, has been found dead. His body arrived in South Korea on Monday.