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12 South Korean Hostages Freed in Afghanistan


Taleban militants in Afghanistan have released 12 of 19 South Korean hostages abducted nearly six weeks ago.

The Taleban freed 10 women captives and two men in three separate groups today Wednesday.

All the hostages were handed over to Red Cross officials at three separate locations in central Afghanistan close to the city of Ghazni.

On Tuesday, the Taleban and South Korean officials announced they had reached a deal to free the hostages. South Korea said it would withdraw 200 of its non-combat troops from Afghanistan by year's end - which it had already planned to do - and suspend missionary work in the country.

Several Afghan politicians have criticized the deal saying it would encourage more kidnappings in the future.

Taleban militants abducted 23 South Koreans as they traveled by bus to southern Afghanistan as part of a Christian aid group. The militants released two female hostages earlier this month and executed two male hostages last month.

The Taleban are also holding German engineer Rudolf Blechschmidt. He was one of two engineers and five Afghans kidnapped by the Taleban in central Afghanistan last month. The other German engineer was shot to death by his captors after he collapsed.

Analysts say the rash of recent kidnappings reflects a new insurgent strategy, which uses kidnappings to terrorize communities and highlight the government's inability to protect them.

Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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