South Korean officials say they have made contact with at least one of the 21 Korean hostages kidnapped last month by Taleban insurgents in Afghanistan.
A South Korean official in Seoul, who refuses to be identified, says the Taleban allowed one of the hostages to speak by telephone to diplomats at South Korea's embassy in Kabul on Saturday.
The official in Seoul says Monday, that no further details of the contact are being released. However, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported later that a self-styled Taleban commander said three female hostages, speaking in Korean, took part in the conversation.
A purported Taleban spokesman says Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.S. President Bush will be responsible if anything bad happens to the hostages. The two leaders are meeting in Washington.
The Taleban wants Kabul to release some Taleban prisoners in exchange for the South Koreans, but Afghanistan has refused to take part in such a trade.
Mr. Karzai says his government is doing everything possible to free the Koreans, but no progress has been reported.
Most of the 21 remaining captives are women, and after being held by the Taleban for nearly three weeks, many are sick.
In telephone calls to VOA and other news organizations Saturday, the hostages said two women in the group are seriously ill.
Mr. Karzai says no true Muslims or Afghans would treat women in such a criminal manner.
A shipment of medicine intended for the captives was delivered Sunday to a place in southern Afghanistan designated by the Taleban. The militants have refused South Korea's previous attempts to deliver such supplies using tribal intermediaries.
The kidnappers seized 23 Koreans - all volunteers from a Christian aid organization - on July 19, and since then have killed two men in the group.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.