SEOUL, (Reuters) – South Korea’s presidential office denied a Taliban claim on Saturday that it had paid a ransom of more than $20 million for the release of 19 Christian missionaries held hostage in Afghanistan. “We deny any payment for the release of South Korean hostages,” said an official at the presidential Blue House. “The two conditions for the release are that we pull out our troops and stop Korean missionary work in Afghanistan by the end of the year,” said he official who declined to be identified. The freed hostages flew out of Afghanistan on Friday to Dubai en route for South Korea.
A Taliban commander, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said on Saturday: “We got more than $20 million dollars from them (the Seoul government). With it we will purchase arms, get our communication network renewed and buy vehicles for carrying out more suicide attacks.”