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Members of a South Korean Christian church pose for a photo before leaving for Afghanistan on July 13 in an airport just west of Seoul. ((Associated Press))

A purported Taliban spokesman said Sunday that the militant group was extending by 24 hours the deadline for the Afghan government to trade captured militants for 23 South Korean hostages.

Qari Yousef Ahmadi, who claims to speak for the Taliban, said thegroup was giving the Afghan and South Korean governments until 10:30 a.m. ET Monday to respond to their demands.

A police chief in Ghazni province said Afghan officials and elders had met with themilitants on Sunday to resolve the crisis. U.S. and Afghan troops also have moved into the region in case military leaders call for a rescue operation.

The insurgency group had threatened to kill the hostages on Sunday unless Taliban prisoners were freed and Seoul withdrew its 200 troops from Afghanistan.

South Korea has said it plans to withdraw its forces, made up of army engineers and medics, by the end of the year as scheduled.

The South Koreans were captured at gunpoint from a bus in Ghazni province on Thursday, a provincial police official said. They wereen routeto Kandahar when their bus was hijacked about 160 kilometres from Kabul.

The 23 hostages belong to the Saemmul Church in Bundang, a city outside South Korea's capital, Seoul. Most of them are in their 20s and 30s, and include nurses, doctors and teachers.

A South Korean government delegation arrived in Afghanistan on Sunday to try to secure the release of the hostages.

Efforts to free the South Korean hostages were underway as authorities learned more abouttwo German engineers abducted by Taliban militants.

Villagersfound the body of one of the Germans who had been kidnapped on Thursday in neighbouring Wardak province along with five Afghans, provincial police chief Mohammad Hewas Mazlum said on Sunday.

On Saturday, German authorities said they had received reports that one of the hostages had died of a heart attack, while the other was still alive.