A purported Taleban spokesman says that 22 South Koreans hostages in Afghanistan are still alive hours after the latest deadline set by the militant group passed without a breakthrough.
Negotiations are continuing with the arrival of a top South Korean envoy Baek Jong-chun in Kabul to work with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on gaining freedom for the hostages.
The Taleban had earlier set a deadline of mid-day today, threatening to kill hostages if their demands for the release of Taleban prisoners were not met. The kidnappers shot and killed the 42-year-old leader of the South Korean Christian aid group earlier this week.
On Thursday, a woman identified as female hostage Lim Hyun-joo made a phone call to reporters, pleading for help in resolving the situation.
The 23 South Korean Christian aid workers 18 women and five men were abducted last week as they rode on a bus towards southern Afghanistan.
In Washington, a State Department spokesman Sean McCormack expressed regret over the killing and said the United States supports Seoul in its efforts to secure the safe return of its citizens.
Information for this report is provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.