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South Koreans Apologize for Hostage Ordeal in Afghanistan


Two of 19 South Koreans released by Taleban kidnappers in Afghanistan have apologized to the South Korean people and government for the ordeal.

At a news conference in Kabul Friday, one of the hostages, Yu Kyeong-sik, described losing sleep over the agony they caused to the country.

Yu described their July 19 abduction, saying the group of 23 church volunteers was on a chartered bus in southern Afghanistan when their driver picked up two locals. He said about 20 minutes later, the men began shooting and stopped the bus.

Yu said the Taleban split the hostages into groups. He said his own group changed locations 12 times throughout the six weeks of captivity, moved by motorbike or on foot.

The Taleban began releasing the 19 hostages on Wednesday, after striking a deal with South Korean negotiators. Two male hostages were executed last month and, then, two female hostages were released during talks with the Taleban.

Officials say the South Koreans are now on their way to Dubai.

As part of the deal to free the hostages, South Korea agreed to withdraw 200 of its non-combat troops from Afghanistan by year's end - which it had already planned to do - and to suspend missionary work in the country.

Some reports say South Korea paid a substantial ransom to the Taleban, but both sides deny any money was exchanged.

The deal has been criticized by some Afghan officials who say it will only encourage more abductions.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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