Taliban hostage deadline looms: South Korean Christians face death Update: Korean negotiators meet kidnappers; Taliban wants money

Bumped…originally posted July 24, 2007 @ 08:21am

Update 2:45pm Eastern. The “final stage”…Now they want money. Meanwhile, still very little American coverage of the ongoing crisis. Maybe if the kidnapped South Korean Christian missionaries were journalists or drunken celebrities, the story would get some attention.

Update 2:15pm Eastern. “Negotiations” continue, Afghan villagers protest Taliban: CBS News reports…Afghan elders and clerics were trying to negotiate with militants holding 23 South Korean hostages in central Afghanistan a day after a purported Taliban spokesman said the hard-line militia had extended its deadline for their lives until Tuesday evening. The South Korean Defense Ministry, meanwhile, said it asked the Afghan military to refrain from conducting operations near the location where the hostages were believed to be held out of concern the kidnappers could be provoked. Villagers in Ghazni Province held a rally demanding that the hostages be released, said Mohammad Zaman, the deputy provincial police chief. Some carried banners and shouted slogans calling for the Koreans to be freed, he said. An AP Television News reporter saw 100 to 150 villagers demonstrating. “We want the Taliban to release them, because they are guests,” Zaman said. “They are in Afghanistan and we want them to be safe.”

Update 11:40am Eastern. Taliban wants an 8-for-8 hostages for jailed jihadis trade.

I know I shouldn’t been stunned by the lack of attention being paid to this story, but I am. The 23 South Korean Christians, including 18 women, kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan are scheduled to be put to death tonight. The hostages are mostly medical workers and teachers. The ultimatum has been pushed back three times now:

Troops killed at least 75 militants in three separate battles in southern Afghanistan, while the Taliban extended the deadline for the lives of 23 South Korean hostages until Tuesday evening.South Korea’s president appealed for calm as the deadline neared. Afghan elders and clerics were trying to negotiate with militants holding the hostages in central Afghanistan.In southern Helmand province, Afghan troops ambushed by militants called in airstrikes and fought back with small-arms and mortar fire, the U.S.-led coalition said. The coalition said at least 36 insurgents were killed in the fighting Monday, but no Afghan or coalition troops were hurt.In Uruzgan province, police clashed for three days with militants blocking the road leading to Kandahar province, leaving 26 militants and two policemen dead, said Wali Jan, the Uruzgan deputy highway police chief. NATO-led and Afghan army troops joined the battle Tuesday, reopening the road for civilians traffic, he said.Another 13 suspected militants were killed in Kandahar province, the Defense Ministry said.The battles took place in remote and dangerous parts of Afghanistan, and the death tolls could not be independently confirmed.Qari Yousef Ahmadi, who claims to speak for the Taliban, said the militants had extended the deadline on the fate of the kidnapped South Koreans another day after the Afghan government refused to release any of the 23 Taliban prisoners the insurgents want freed.The militants have pushed back their ultimatum at least three times.

The Independent reports on the underground Afghan Christian movement. Apostates, as you’ll remember from the Abdul Rahman case, are subject to the death penalty for abandoning Islam:

The kidnapping of South Korean church volunteers by the Taliban has sparked vigils in Seoul, and shone the spotlight on Afghanistan’s small, underground Christian community.In Mazar-e-Sharif, home to one of Islam’s most revered shrines, Ahmedi, 33, says he would be killed instantly if his faith were exposed. In this staunchly traditional society, conversion from Islam remains reviled by many Afghans – and by government officials. “If the war had not happened, if the Americans and foreigners had not come to Afghanistan, we would not have this freedom and we would not have this office,” says Ahmedi, who was fearful of giving his full name. The “office” is a community centre set up by a Christian charity, and Ahmedi is one of 100 or so Christians living in the northern city.Rumours abound here that many aid organisations are used as a cover by foreigners to indoctrinate people into Christianity. And in Ahmedi’s case, there is an element of truth – he converted from Shia Islam three years ago after meeting an American evangelical. Now his wife and four children are also Christian, and he is the priest of a local church. He has even helped convert other Afghans.The 23 South Koreans were kidnapped last week at gunpoint from a bus in Ghazni province, and belong to the Saemmul Church in Bundang, which says they are working as volunteer nurses and English teachers. However, boasts from some evangelical church leaders in South Korea about unofficially sending missionaries to Afghanistan has muddied the water between Christian volunteers doing humanitarian work, and those whose primary mission is to seek converts overseas.In Mazer-e-Sharif, a recent convert called Abdullah recalled how his family reacted when he revealed his change of faith. “When I received Jesus, I went to my house and I didn’t say prayers any more like other Muslims,” he said. “One night my father asked me to get up and pray, but I told him I can’t. He asked me why, and I told him I was a Christian. He started to fight with me.”Abdullah’s parents have come to accept his religion, but his oldest brother continues to ostracise him, and most other people do not even know he has converted. “If I go out and say I am a Christian they will curse me, hit me and kill me,” he said, matter of factly…Despite the dangers they face, Afghan Christians refuse to give in to the fear that they will be found out. “If I am afraid I will never receive Jesus,” said Abdullah.

The Jawa Report is keeping vigil over these and other forgotten hostages of the jihadis.

Instead of questioning the zeal of head-chopping Muslim fanatics, some Koreans are questioning the “evangelical zeal” of peaceful Christian missionairies:

The kidnapping of 23 Korean church volunteers in Afghanistan has raised questions in South Korea over whether the country’s evangelical Christian groups may be too zealous in sending missionaries overseas.There are an estimated 17,000 South Korean Christian missionaries abroad, the largest contingent after those from the United States, with many of them in volatile regions. Several major dailies questioned why the church that sent the volunteers to Afghanistan ignored government warnings of the risk of conflict with the Islamic militarist Taliban.”Religious groups should realise once and for all that dangerous missionary and volunteer activities in Islamic countries including Afghanistan not only harm Korea’s national objectives, but also put other Koreans under a tremendous amount of duress,” the right-leaning Chosun Ilbo newspaper said in an editorial on Monday.The Saemmul church from which the kidnapped Koreans were dispatched is relatively moderate and its missions abroad have focused on volunteer medical and humanitarian work, people in the Christian community say.

As of 8:30am, there is nothing on the front page of the Human Rights Watch website about the plight of the South Korean Christian volunteers. Instead, the lead story is an article lambasting U.S. mandatory deportation laws regarding convicted criminal aliens. I kid you not.

Update: Reader Ken writes that he lived in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan “for most of 2002 and the Christian Charity there is called ‘Samaritan’s Purse’ based in North Carolina. They did wonderful things with very few resources unlike much better-funded organizations like ‘Save the Children.’ I am not surprised to hear they’ve converted 100 Muslims to Christianity as they simply do good things everyday. They give out shoes and food to the endless orphans abandoned by Islam to the backdrop of their revered ‘Blue Mosque.’ I specifically remember ‘Nina’ bravely walking through the streets of MeS (that what we called Mazar-i-Sharif) minus even her head scarf. Men glared at her but she was very strong and carried herself with the full knowledge men can only kill her body but not her spirit.”

Posted in: South Korean Christian hostages

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