GHAZNI, Afghanistan (AFP) -Taliban militants who have been holding 19 South Koreans for more than a month renewed a threat Wednesday to kill them if their demands are not met.
A purported rebel spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahed, said some of the captives were sick and they were also suffering from lack of proper food.
“If the demands of the Taliban are not met the Korean hostages face death,” Mujahed told AFP in a telephone call from an unknown location.
“Although we want this crisis to be solved through negotiations, it seems the US authorities are creating problems.”
He did not, however, set any deadline and it was impossible to verify his comments independently.
The Korean aid workers were seized while travelling in insurgency-plagued southern Afghanistan on July 19, a day after a German engineer was kidnapped nearby.
The Islamic militant group has demanded the release of some of its jailed fighters in exchange for the hostages — a demand the US-backed government in Kabul has so far rejected.
Mujahed said weather conditions and lack of “proper food” in the southern Ghazni province meant life for the hostages was increasingly harsh.
“Their health condition is not good. The weather conditions and a lack of proper food have made conditions for them very hard. Most of them are sick.”
Negotiations between Taliban captors and a South Korean delegation to free the captives have failed. Mujahed, however, said telephone contacts between he two sides was continuing.
“We’ve been in phone contact with the Korean delegation. So far, there has not been any decision for face-to-face talks,” he said.
A South Korean embassy official here, under cover of anonymity, confirmed contact was being maintained.
The spokesman said the Taliban wanted 10 of its prisoners freed in exchange for the German engineer, who was also sick, and four Afghan colleagues.
The kidnappings are among a series of incidents blamed on the Taliban, who are waging a bloody insurgency against the Kabul government and its coalition allies that has spiralled in intensity over the past year.
A female German aid worker was kidnapped in the capital at the weekend, but she was later freed in a police raid and authorities said her abduction was a criminal act motivated by money.