KABUL, Afghanistan, (AP) -A purported Taliban deadline for the lives of 22 South Korean hostages passed with no word on the captives’ fate Monday, and an Afghan governor pleaded with the militants to give negotiations more time.
Qari Yousef Ahmadi, who claims to speak for the Taliban, said midday Monday was the militants’ latest deadline to kill one or more of the hostages if 23 Taliban prisoners weren’t released from Afghan jails.
But that marker passed with no word from Taliban or government representatives. Several purported deadlines passed last week with no consequences, though on Wednesday the militants shot to death one captive several hours after a deadline passed.
Marajudin Pathan, the governor of Ghazni province, where the South Koreans were abducted on July 19, said that authorities talked to the Taliban on Sunday after they set the latest deadline and asked for two more days of talks.
“Fortunately, they did not reject our demand outright, but said that they need to talk to their leaders,” Pathan said.
Because of the previous deadlines, it wasn’t clear how seriously the militants would treat their latest ultimatum for the 22 remaining South Koreans.
The attempts to free the South Koreans come after President Hamid Karzai and other Afghan officials tried to shame the Taliban on Sunday into releasing the 18 of the captives who are women by appealing to a tradition of cultural hospitality and chivalry.
In his first comments since 23 Koreans were abducted on July 19, Karzai criticized the Taliban’s kidnapping of “foreign guests,” especially women, as contrary to the tenets of Islam.
“The perpetration of this heinous act on our soil is in total contempt of our Islamic and Afghan values,” Karzai told a South Korean envoy during a meeting at the presidential palace, according to a statement from his office.
Echoing Karzai’s words, Afghanistan’s national council of clerics said the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, taught that no one has the right to kill women, children or elders.
“Even in the history of Afghanistan, in all its combat and fighting, Afghans respected women, children and elders,” the council said. “The killing of women is against Islam, against the Afghan culture, and they shouldn’t do it.”
But the Taliban spokesman instead invoked the religious tenet of “an eye for an eye,” alleging that Western militaries are holding Afghan women at bases in Bagram and Kandahar, and the Taliban can do the same. He said the Taliban could detain and kill “women, men or children.”
Elsewhere, Taliban militants ambushed a convoy of private security guards on a dangerous highway south of the capital, and officials said Monday up to 13 guards were killed.
NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said the ambush was against civilians, but Afghan officials said the attack came against private security guards on the Kabul-Kandahar highway Sunday, the same roadway where the South Koreans were kidnapped.
The Taliban attack Sunday sparked a three-hour gunbattle and resulted in the deaths of 13 private security guards and five Taliban militants, said Jailani Khan, the commander of highway police in Zabul province.
Gulabshah Alikhail, the governor’s spokesman, said seven guards were killed and five wounded, while an Interior Ministry statement said 10 private guards were killed.
NATO’s ISAF reported that Romanian soldiers came upon a civilian convoy ambushed by the Taliban and that 12 civilians were killed and eight wounded.