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S. Korea Mourns Hostage Death, While Seeking to Prevent 22 More


South Korea says kidnappers who killed a South Korean hostage in Afghanistan will be held accountable for their actions. As family and friends of the victim mourn, South Korean negotiators are trying to save the lives of 22 other hostages still in the custody of Taleban insurgents. VOA's Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.

Family and friends of a murdered South Korean hostage said Thursday they are relying on each other to deal with the tragedy.

Cha Song-min, a spokesman for the families, says they are consoling each other and avoiding moment-by-moment news coverage.

Afghan officials say Taleban insurgents riddled 42-year-old Christian pastor Bae Hyung-kyu with bullets. Then they dumped his body near where he and 22 other South Korean Christian aid workers were taken hostage a week ago.

Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, who calls himself a spokesman for the hard-line Islamist militants, confirmed the grim news Thursday. He says Taleban members carried out the shooting because negotiations with Afghan and South Korean representatives had failed. He also later said the other hostages are still alive.

Baek Jong-chun, a senior secretary to South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, offered condolences to Bae's family, and condemned the killing.

Baek says the kidnappers will be held accountable for taking the life of a South Korean citizen.

The kidnappers demand that a number of their comrades be released from Afghan prisons in exchange for the hostages' release.

Chun Ho-sun, a spokesman for South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, says Mr. Roh has held several phone discussions with his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai. He says dealing with the hostage-takers is a complex affair.

Chun says even though the basic demands of the insurgents are well known, the specific details of the demands are constantly changing - because the militants are divided into at least 10 sub-groups with different goals.

The hostages defied a South Korean ban on travel to Afghanistan to carry out what their church describes as humanitarian activities. South Korea has a few hundred military and civilian personnel in the country, providing non-combat support to international security forces there.

Many South Koreans have expressed more anger at the hostages than the Taleban. Critics describe them as proselytizing missionaries, who unnecessarily put themselves at risk in a militant Islamic area.

There is also some resentment toward the United States, the dominant force in the international coalition providing security in Afghanistan. U.S. and international forces attacked Afghanistan and ousted the former Taleban government because it was sheltering the al Qaida terrorist group responsible for the September 2001 attacks in the U.S.

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