Source AP ©

Taliban to free remaining seven South Korean kidnappings

On Wednesday, the Taliban released 12 of 19 South Koreans held hostage, as part of a deal with Seoul that one Afghan minister warned would embolden the insurgents.

South Korean presidential spokesman Cheon Ho-sun said Thursday that once free, the group will be heading to Kabul before returning home via Dubai .

Taliban militants were expected to release seven remaining South Korean hostages Thursday, South Korean official said.

The hostages were released into the care of officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross at three separate locations in central Afghanistan.

None of the 12 spoke to reporters.

The Taliban originally kidnapped 23 South Koreans as they traveled by bus from Kabul to the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar on July 19. In late July, the militants killed two male hostages, and they released two women earlier this month as gesture of goodwill.

The first three women freed arrived in a village of Qala-e-Kazi in a single car, their heads covered with red and green shawls. Red Cross officials quickly took them to their vehicles before leaving for the office of the Afghan Red Crescent in the town of Ghazni, witnesses said.

Under the terms of Tuesday's deal, South Korea reaffirmed a pledge it made before the hostage crisis began to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year. Seoul also said it would prevent South Korean Christian missionaries from working in the staunchly Muslim country, something it had already promised to do.

The Taliban apparently backed down on earlier demands for a prisoner exchange. But the militant group, which killed two South Korean hostages last month, could emerge with enhanced political legitimacy for negotiating successfully with a foreign government.

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