August 29, 2007
According to CNN.com, Taliban militants have released 12 of the 19 remaining South Korean missionary hostages held in captivity in Afghanistan for more than a month. The 12 were released on Wednesday into the care of the International Committee of the Red Cross, The Associated Press reports. 23 Christian aid workers were in the original group that traveled to Afghanistan and were abducted from a bus on July 19. Taliban militants later executed two hostages, and freed two more.
On Tuesday, numerous sources reported that the Taliban and Korean negotiators in Afghanistan had reached an accord, which specified that South Korea would remove its 200 non-combat troops from Afghanistan, even though these soldiers mostly function in engineering and medicine. The agreement reportedly did not involve money, nor the release of Taliban prisoners. However, Baptist Press reports that as part of the deal, the South Korean government has banned all Korean Christian missionaries from Afghanistan.
Daniel R. Heimbach, who worked in the first Bush administration and currently serves as professor of Christian ethics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, told Baptist Press, "While I rejoice that terrorists are releasing innocent victims, I am truly saddened by the conditions to which the government of South Korea has agreed. Matters of international justice should not be dictated by those who threaten the lives of aid workers motivated only by love."
Back in South Korea, though, relatives of the hostages welcomed news of the deal. Cho Myung-ho, mother of 28-year-old hostage Lee Joo-yeon, told AP, "I would like to dance."
As of Tuesday afternoon, there was no scheduled release date for the hostages. But on Wednesday, 12 were let go in groups of three, five, and four at different times and locations. According to CNN, the insurgents will free the remaining seven hostages, whom they are holding in different locations, over the next few days.