July 20, 2007

South Korean Christians Kidnapped in Afghanistan

UPDATE 7/21/2007: Taliban threatens to murder 18 Christian missionaries, demands Koreans remove troops from Afghanistan.

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Eighteen members of a South Korean Presbyterian church on a mission trip to Afghanistan were snatched off the church bus by the Taliban Thursday. The group of 3 men and 15 women were traveling from Kabul to Khandahar when they were attacked by 35-40 armed Taliban who drove the bus into the desert and forced the missionaries to walk for more than an hour to a nearby village.

Taliban spokesman Yousef Ahmadi said the abductees are safe for now.

"The Taliban have kidnapped the South Korean nationals," Ahmadi said from an unknown location. "There are 18 South Koreans - three men and 15 women. "They are with the Taliban now and they are safe and sound. They are under investigation and once the investigation is over, the Taliban leading council will make a final decision about their fate."

Last year about 1200 South Korean Christians were ordered out of Afghanistan because of fears for their safety. A report by the S. Korean foreign ministry detailed plans by the Taliban to kidnap travellers in the Kabul area.

It said the insurgents appeared to be trying to barter the release of one of their top leaders, arrested about a year ago.

"The reason they picked South Koreans as their target is believed to be because South Koreans often travel by land," with the least security measures, the ministry said.

The Taliban are also claiming to have kidnapped two German engineers and 6 Afghan associates, and are demanding the withdrawal of German troops from Afghanistan:

Afghan authorities searched on Thursday for two Germans and six Afghans who were abducted in an area southwest of the capital.

The group was travelling in a car when seized on Wednesday in Wardak province, the Interior Ministry said.

The identity of the group and who kidnapped them was not clear. Berlin said on Wednesday that two Germans had gone missing in Afghanistan and its embassy in Kabul and other appropriate authorities were working to find out what had happened.

One German national was kidnapped in western Afghanistan this month, but was released unharmed after few days.

These latest kidnappings follow two high-profile abductions by the Taliban earlier this year. In March Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo and his 2 Afghan colleagues, Sayed Agha and Adjmal Nakshbandi, were kidnapped with demands for the release of Taliban prisoners being held by the Afghan government. Mastrogiacomo was freed after Afghan President Hamid Karzai released 5 Taliban, 3 of whom were later killed with the infamous Mullah Dadullah. Agha was beheaded on video during the abduction, and Nakshbandi was beheaded on Easter Day.

In April French aid workers Eric Damfreville and Celine Cordelier, along with 3 Afghan colleagues, were kidnapped for more than 5 weeks before being freed safely.

UPDATE:
Missionaries kidnapped by Taleban warned they face death

The Taleban forbid Christians from entering Afghanistan to convert Muslims, under threat of death. Yesterday Sayed Murard Shrifi, a religious cleric who is head of the public court in Baghlan, said: “In terms of punishment the one who comes to a Muslim country to convert people to their religion must face the strongest punishment. The first choice is death and the second life in prison.”

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