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Afghan Demonstrators Denounce Taliban Hostage Takers

Demonstrators protesting against the Taliban in Kandahar (AFP) August 6, 2007 -- Some 300 Afghans demonstrated today in the southern city of Kandahar, calling for the immediate release of 21 South Korean volunteer aid workers kidnapped by Talban militants on July 19.

The protesters chanted anti-Taliban slogans and criticized the militant extremists for holding women as hostages.

The Taliban have killed two male captives and threatened to kill the remaining 21 -- most of them women -- unless Kabul releases Taliban prisoners.

A Taliban spokesman today criticized Afghan President Hamid Karzai's current visit to Washington, suggesting Karzai's talks with U.S. President George W. Bush could negatively affect the fate of the hostages.

Meanwhile, South Korean officials say they made their first direct contact with one of hostages through a telephone conversation on August 4. South Korean presidential spokesman Cheon Ho-sun said negotiators are being cautious.

"On the issue of direct or indirect contact with the Taliban, I can say we're cautiously working on the situation not to make any mistake so that [the South Korean hostages] would not be harmed," Cheon said.

Earlier reports said negotiations were deadlocked today, with no agreement on where face-to-face talks might take place.

An Afghan doctor says he dropped off $2,000 worth of medicines on August 5 intended for the Koreans, two of whom are said to be extremely ill.

(Reuters, AP, AFP)

RFE/RL Afghanistan Report

RFE/RL Afghanistan Report

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