Jul 25, 2007
KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- One of 23 South Koreans held hostage in Afghanistan by the Taliban has been killed, and militants have threatened to execute 14 others, a local official and a Taliban spokesman told CNN on Wednesday.
There had been conflicting reports on whether eight of the remaining 22 hostages had been released, but officials in Seoul believe the remaining 22 hostages are in Taliban custody.
Police in southeastern Ghazni province confirmed that the dead man's bullet-riddled body was found in the Qara Bagh district, where the Koreans were kidnapped July 19.
The man was identified as Bae Hyng-Kyu, 42, a pastor at the church attended by the hostages and the leader of their group, according to a South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman.
"We found a male dead body of a South Korean who has got 10 bullet holes in his body, bullet holes from head to toe," said provincial police chief Gen. Ali Shah Ahmadzai.
Khawaja Mohammad Siddiqi, the district governor of Qara Bagh, told CNN the executed hostage had been very ill and could not be moved to a hospital.
Siddiqi said Taliban militants are holding the remaining Korean hostages -- most of whom are women -- in three different locations.
The 14 hostages could be executed by early Thursday if Taliban demands by aren't met, Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousif Ahmadi said.
The South Korean was killed, said Ahmadi, because the Taliban's demands of a prisoner release and withdrawal of South Korean troops from Afghanistan were not met.
"Since Kabul's administration did not listen to our demand and did not free our prisoners, the Taliban shot dead a male Korean hostage," Ahmadi said.
"That time is the last deadline," he told the Reuters news agency.
Ahmadi told CNN it is likely that the remaining hostages would be killed by 1 a.m. Thursday (4:30 p.m. ET Wednesday) if those demands are not answered.
The 23 church volunteers -- 18 women and five men -- were seized on the main road south from Kabul last week.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has pledged not to swap prisoners for hostages after being heavily criticized for releasing five Taliban members from jail in March in exchange for an Italian reporter.
The Taliban has also demanded Seoul withdraw its 200 troops from Afghanistan (http://topics.edition.cnn.com/topics/afghanistan), something the South Korean government said it had planned to do at the end of this year in any case.
Meanwhile, a German journalist kidnapped in eastern Afghanistan has been freed, the Kunar province governor told CNN.
The German news magazine Stern earlier Wednesday said Christoph Reuter, 39, and his Afghan translator were missing and feared kidnapped. There was no word about the status of the Afghan translator.
Reuter has worked for the Hamburg-based publication since 2002 and had previously reported from Afghanistan and Iraq, writing a book on suicide bombers.
According to Stern, Reuter left Kabul for Jalalabad on Monday but had not contacted the magazine for several days.
The statement said Stern was concerned for his welfare. News reports said the kidnapping occurred late Tuesday.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan, more than 20 insurgents were killed in fighting Wednesday in the southern province of Kandahar, the U.S.-led coalition said. Militants in three compounds, using rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns and small arms, ambushed Afghan security forces accompanied by coalition troops near the village of Chenar Tu.
Also, a French army officer and a British soldier died in fighting in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday.