By Yousuf Azimy
ARZOO, Afghanistan (Reuters) – Afghan authorities on Tuesday recovered the body of a second South Korean shot dead by Taliban kidnappers who threatened to kill more of the 21 hostages if Kabul does not free rebel prisoners by 0330 EDT on Wednesday.
The blood-stained body of the bespectacled male Korean was dumped on a clover field beside a road in Arzoo, a village lying some 10 km (6 miles) southeast of the town of Ghazni.
“If the Kabul administration and Korean government do not give a positive reply to our demand about the release of Taliban prisoners by tomorrow 1200 (local time), then we will start killing other hostages,” Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousuf told Reuters by telephone from an unknown location.
President Hamid Karzai’s spokesman said bowing to Taliban demands would encourage more kidnapping.
“We shouldn’t encourage kidnapping by actually accepting their demands … In this situation we are doing what is the best for the interests of the hostages, and government,” Humayun Hamidzada told reporters, without elaborating.
Karzai came under harsh criticism in March for releasing a group of Taliban prisoners in exchange for an Italian journalist.
“As far as the Italian journalist is concerned, (kidnapping) shouldn’t become an industry, it shouldn’t be encouraged,” Hamidzada said.
Taliban spokesman Yousuf said Afghan negotiators had not contacted the Taliban since the second hostage was killed on Monday and said the insurgents suspected the Afghan government and foreign troops were intending to launch a rescue bid.
LIVES AT RISK
Any attempt to rescue the hostages by force would put the Korean’s lives at risk, he warned.
The victim was identified as Shim Sung-min, 29, a former employee of an IT firm who did volunteer work to help the poor.
Shim Sung-min, 29, one of the kidnapped South Koreans in Afghanistan in an undated photo released Tuesday. Taliban kidnappers shot dead the male South Korean hostage on Monday, accusing the Afghan government of not listening to rebel demands for the release of Taliban prisoners. REUTERS/Saemmul Church/Handout
Police cordoned off the site in the village of Arzoo where Shim was found fearing it had been booby-trapped, but recovered the body later.
The village is some 80 km (50 miles) from where the group of 18 women and five men were seized near Qarabagh on the main road south from Kabul, undermining statements by Afghan officials who said government forces had the kidnappers surrounded.
The hostage crisis has focused attention on growing lawlessness in Afghanistan, where Taliban influence and attacks are spreading to areas previously considered safe, undermining support for a government unable to provide security.
Separately, five Health Ministry officials, including three doctors, were abducted by gunmen in the southern province of Kandahar on Sunday, a provincial police chief said on Tuesday.
Shim’s mother cried hysterically after hearing the victim may have been her son. “Why did you kill him? Please save his life,” she said through her tears.
Shim’s father, a provincial assembly member, described his son as a gentle soul. “He had a good heart and did a lot of volunteer work. My son also wanted to help the poor and disabled,” Shim Chin-pyo told reporters.
The Taliban shot Shim after other deadlines they had set for the release of rebel prisoners expired.
Negotiations had reached a deadlock with Afghan authorities demanding the release of the 18 women before any prisoners were freed and the kidnappers insisting its fighters should be let out of jail first, according to a Western security analyst.
Taliban spokesman Yousuf said Shim was killed because Afghan authorities were ignoring their demands.
On Wednesday, the Taliban killed the leader of the group.
Al Jazeera television broadcast a video showing at least seven of the female hostages, wearing headscarves and apparently unharmed. Four were sitting on the ground, the rest standing beside men in Afghan clothes, apparently militants.
The seizure of the Koreans came a day after the Taliban had seized two Germans and five Afghans in nearby Wardak province.
The body of one of the Germans was found with bullet wounds, but the other German and four Afghans are still held by the Taliban who want Germany to pull troops out of Afghanistan. One of the Afghan captives managed to escape.
(Additional reporting by Sayed Salahuddin and Hamid Shalizi in Kabul)
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