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(2nd LD) Taliban spokesman threatens to kill more male hostages

All Headlines 03:36 July 31, 2007

(ATTN: CHANGES headline, lead paras with Taliban spokesman's comments, ADDS U.S. State Department spokesman's comments)

WASHINGTON, July 30 (Yonhap) -- The Taliban, claiming Monday to have executed another male South Korean hostage, threatened it will continue to kill more of them and more frequently.

Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, who claims to speak for the militant group, told Yonhap in indirect contact that the Taliban will start to kill female hostages after the men, should negotiations fail.

"The Afghan government and the South Korean envoy delegation have behaved in a way that does not reflect special efforts to keep the hostages alive," he said.

"They should not waste any more time."

Ahmadi earlier told AFP and Reuters that a man named "Sung Sin" was killed at 8:30 p.m. (local time) with AK-47 gunshots because the Afghan government did not heed the deadline set for exchanging the hostages with Taliban prisoners.

South Korean officials in Seoul said they were trying to confirm the reports,

"We will continue to execute the hostages if the Afghan government does not release the prisoners," Ahmadi told Yonhap.

He talked about the difficulty in moving hostages around at night and warned they will be killed in shorter frequency. "Today's killing is the first phase of this consecutive execution," he said.

The victim's body was abandoned at a road about 5km away from the capital of Ghazni province,
according to Ahmadi. The area is a desert, some 20km away from Qarabagh, where 23 South Korean civilians were seized while traveling on a bus on July 19.

The given name of the victim is most similar to Shim Sung-min, 29, among the kidnapped.

If confirmed true, it will be the second killing of the hostages. Bae Hyung-kyu, a pastor, was killed last Wednesday, his bullet-riddled corpse later recovered.

The reported killing follows yet another deadline extension, until Wednesday, that the Taliban agreed to in negotiating the terms of hostages' release. The rebel group, after initially declaring 4 p.m. Monday deadline, said it was giving another two days for talks.

The hostages went to the war-torn nation as church group volunteers.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Tom Casey reiterated calls for the hostages' immediate release. It wasn't clear whether he knew of the latest press reports when speaking at the daily briefing.

"It's absolutely, unfortunately, part of the hallmark of the Taliban that they will engage in these kinds of activities and will engage in all kinds of other vicious attacks, both on foreigners in that country trying to help the citizens there, as well as on Afghanis themselves," he said.

But he maintained a cautious tone, saying the U.S. wants to be "careful" in discussing this issue.

"This is obviously a difficult time for the families of the hostages and for the government of South Korea, and the government of Afghanistan as well," Casey said.


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