Muslim advocacy groups in the United States are condemning the recent kidnapping of 23 South Koreans in Afghanistan and are demanding their release.
The Christian missionaries have been held since July 19 by the Taliban, which is seeking the release of Taliban prisoners held by the Afghan government.
The Taliban killed two of the hostages, including group leader Shim Sung-min, 29, after saying that its demands had not been met.
A spokeswoman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations yesterday said the group "condemns the taking of the Korean hostages and demands that the kidnappers release them immediately and unconditionally."
Imam Mahdi Bray, executive director of Muslim American Society (MAS) Freedom Foundation, sent a formal letter of condolence to the Republic of Korea's ambassador to the U.S. on Tuesday and issued a public statement of condemnation.
"MAS Freedom completely condemns the taking and killing of South Korean Christian hostages in Afghanistan as not only a gross violation of the human rights of these captives, but also a horrible violation of the norms of basic human decency," Mr. Bray said.
"These actions are completely contrary to the basic tenets of Islam, and for the sake of our Lord, we implore those who have taken these hostages to return them safely to their loved ones, and to stop this madness," he added.
Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, chairman of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), said the hostage-taking "is a stark reminder of who our enemies are and the barbaric means they will continue to use to achieve their goals of militant Islamism."
"AIFD calls upon the Karzai administration and coalition countries working together against militant Islamists to harness our united military and diplomatic resources to achieve the release of the hostages and the defeat of their captors," Dr. Jasser said.
The World Muslim Organization in London yesterday warned about the effects of the kidnapping on the Muslim faith.
"Acts of violence and causing harm to innocent people will only damage the shining image of our great faith and no one will like to join our faith any more, after seeing what abnormal and thoughtless militants are doing to our innocent South Korean brothers. Let us leave such acts for the enemies of Islam," the group said.
The Associated Press reported that the Afghan army dropped leaflets yesterday warning of impending military action in the region where the missionaries are being held, but the army said the operation is not connected to the captives.
Gov. Marajudin Pathan said the Taliban agreed to a face-to-face meeting with Korea's ambassador to Afghanistan. Qari Yousef Ahmadi, who claims to speak for the Taliban militants, says the remaining 21 hostages were still alive, though two female captives were gravely ill and could die at any time.
South Korea is sending a parliamentary delegation to the United States to seek cooperation in resolving the crisis, and relatives of the hostages pleaded with U.S. Embassy officials during an hourlong visit for help in negotiating their loved ones' release.
The South Korean president's office said yesterday that Washington was involved in efforts to win the hostages' release, but at a basic level.
"We understand their dilemma and limits," presidential spokesman Cheon Ho-sun said.
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.