- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 25, 2007

KABUL, Afghanistan The bullet-riddled body of a South Korean hostage was found by police today in central Afghanistan after a purported Taliban spokesman said the militants had killed one of the captives. Some of the other Koreans were released, however.

The male victim had 10 bullet holes in his head, chest and stomach, and was discovered in the Mushaki area of Qarabagh district in Ghazni province, said police officer Abdul Rahman.

The Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said earlier that the hostage was killed because Afghan authorities hadn’t met their demands to release other militants from prison. A police official who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the situation said militants told him the hostage was sick and couldn’t walk and was therefore shot.

Two Western officials said some of the original 23 South Koreans kidnapped last week had also been released. One of the officials, who asked not to be identified because he wasn’t authorized to share the information, said six women and two men had been taken to the main U.S. base in Ghazni. The South Korean news agency Yonhap also said eight were released.

An Afghan official involved in the negotiations said earlier a large ransom would be paid to free eight of the hostages. The official spoke on condition he not be identified citing the sensitivity of the matter, and no other officials would confirm the account. Foreign governments are suspected to have paid for the release of hostages in Afghanistan in the past but have either kept it quiet or denied it outright.

The Taliban originally had demanded that 23 jailed militants be freed in exchange for the Koreans.

The South Korean hostages, including 18 women, were kidnapped July 19 while riding a bus through Ghazni province on the Kabul-Kandahar highway, Afghanistan’s main thoroughfare.

Earlier, a Danish reporter of Afghan origin escaped a kidnap attempt in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, the Danish Foreign Ministry said. The unidentified man “was close to being caught but managed to get away and reach a local police station,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ole Neustrup said. “He is safe and sound.” The Dane was first reported to be German but that report proved to be false, Khan said.

The series of recent kidnappings 26 foreigners have been abducted in the last week prompted the Afghan government to forbid foreigners living in Kabul from leaving the city without police permission.

Police said officials stationed at checkpoints at the city’s main gates would stop foreigners from leaving Kabul unless they informed officials 24 hours in advance of their travel plans, said Esmatullah Dauladzai, Kabul’s provincial police chief. The directive, issued Wednesday, is related to the recent kidnappings, he said.

Elsewhere, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said a soldier was killed in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday by a rocket-propelled grenade. ISAF didn’t release the soldier’s nationality but the majority of troops in the east are American.

The U.S.-led coalition said 20 suspected Taliban militants were killed Wednesday after a failed ambush on coalition and Afghan troops in Kandahar province.