- The Washington Times - Monday, July 23, 2007

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan A purported Taliban spokesman said today the hard-line militia has extended its deadline for a deal to free 23 South Korean hostages who were seized last week.

Qari Yousef Ahmadi, who claims to speak for the Taliban, said the militants had pushed back the deadline until Tuesday evening after the Afghan government refused to release any of the 23 Taliban prisoners the insurgents want freed.

The militants have pushed back their ultimatum on the Koreans’ fate at least three times. Afghan officials in Ghazni province have met the militants in person and also are negotiating over the phone, but little progress appears to have been made so far.

The developments came as the U.S.-led coalition reported killing about 50 militants in southern Afghanistan’s poppy-growing heartland.