AFGHANISTAN: Taliban release two women hostages

Yesterday, the Taliban released two of the 21 Korean Christians who have been held hostage for the past three weeks. The two women, Kim Ji Na (aged 32) and Kim Kyong Ja (aged 37) were released into the custody of a tribal elder who drove them to a pre-arranged location in Ghazni province where they were handed over to representatives of the International Red Crescent. The two women cried as they were handed over.

The women were taken to an American military base in Ghazni city where they were medically examined – both were said to be ill but no further details have been released.

A Taliban spokesman said “We have released the women as a goodwill gesture in the hope that the Korean government will help ensure the safe return of Taliban prisoners held by the Afghan government…Now the ball is in Korea‚Äôs court. They have to exchange Taliban prisoners for Korean hostages.”

All major television stations in South Korea interrupted their regular programming to report the release. President Roh Moo Hyun welcomed the news and told his government to “exert all efforts for the early return of the other hostages”

“I am so happy that my sister has been released,” said Kim Ji Woong, 35, a brother of Kim Ji Na, during a nationally televised news conference at Sammul Presbyterian Church in Bundang, South Korea (the home church of the hostages). “But our hearts remain heavy when we think about the other hostages.”

The mother of the other released hostage, Sun Yun-ja, said it was difficult to be happy about the releases. “Two came back as bodies, two will return as being sick – I am really sorry for the family members of the remaining 19 hostages…I have a very heavy heart, rather than have a happy heart.”

(Chosun Ilbo, BBC, New York Times)