Taliban free 12 of 19 remaining South Korean hostages

Taliban militants released 12 of 19 South Korean hostages on Wednesday in the wake of a deal struck a day earlier to free them all.

'We do not negotiate with terrorists,' Bernier says after Taliban frees 12 South Koreans

Taliban militants released12 of 19 South Korean hostages on Wednesday in the wake of a deal struck a dayearlier tofree them all.

A South Korean hostage, Koh Se-hoon, walks near an International Red Cross vehicle after he was released by Taliban militants in Ghazni province, west of Kabul, on Wednesday. ((Musadeq Sadeq/Associated Press))

A first groupofthree female hostages were handed to tribal leaders, who took them to an agreed location where officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross picked them up. Hours later, four women and one man were released in a desert close to Shah Baz.

Another four were later freed on a main road about 50 kilometresfrom Ghazni.

The Talibanhas said they will release the hostages, whoare being held in different locations, over the next few days.

On Tuesday, the South Korean government and Taliban representatives announced that a deal had been secured to release the remaining 19 South Korean hostages.

South Korean presidential spokesman Cheon Ho-sun said the release was "on the condition that South Korea withdraws troops by the end of year and South Korea suspends missionary work in Afghanistan."

A South Korean hostage is escorted by Red Cross workers after being released in Ghazni province on Wednesday. ((Musadeq Sadeq/Associated Press))
South Korea has already said it planned to withdraw its troops by the end of the year. Some 200 South Korean soldiers have been deployed in Afghanistan for reconstruction efforts, not combat.

Taliban militants seized 23 South Korean members of a Christian aid group travelling by bus from Kabul to Kandahar on July 19. They had demanded the Afghan government and the U.S. military release Taliban prisoners in exchange for the safe return of the South Koreans.

In late July, they shot and killed two male captives. In mid-August, they released two female hostages.

Tuesday's deal came during talks between Taliban negotiators and South Korean diplomats in the central city of Ghazni. The Afghan government was not party to the negotiations, which were mediated by the ICRC.

With files from the Associated Press