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Afghan Officials: Taleban Leader Involved in Korean Kidnapping Killed


Afghan officials say police have killed one of the Taleban leaders responsible for the kidnapping of 23 South Korean volunteers last month. From Islamabad, VOA correspondent Benjamin Sand reports.

Provincial Governor Merajuddin Pattan says police in Ghazni province killed Mullah Mateen during a firefight.

"Our police forces surrounded the area and the leader of the terrorist group who had kidnapped the Koreans was killed along with 16 others," he said.

The 23 South Korean Christian volunteers were kidnapped July 19 as they drove through the war-torn province.

The Taleban killed two of their hostages before freeing the rest more than a month later.

Officials say Mateen was one of two masterminds behind the kidnapping. He was directly involved in the negotiations with South Korean envoys that led to the hostages' release.

South Korea agreed to several Taleban demands to help resolve the six-week stand off. Seoul reaffirmed plans to end its military presence in Afghanistan by the end of the year and suspend Korean missionary work in the country.

There are also widespread reports South Korea paid a substantial ransom to the Taleban.

Several Afghan officials have sharply criticized South Korea for making deals of any sort with the insurgent group.

Security experts say the talks have helped legitimize the Taleban's political standing and could encourage more kidnappings in the future.

Pro-Taleban violence has surged across much of Afghanistan in recent months, making this one of the country's bloodiest stretches since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taleban government in 2001.

More than 7,000 people have been killed in the past 19 months.

Afghan officials say at least three police officers were killed Tuesday in separate suicide bomb attacks.