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The act of taking innocent people hostage and killing them to press demands is unpardonable. The Taliban should stop this atrocious behavior immediately. We extend our condolences to the souls and families of South Korean volunteers who have been killed since their group was kidnapped July 19 in Afghanistan.

The group of 23 Christians — 16 women and seven men — from Saemmul Presbyterian Church in Bundang, near Seoul, were kidnapped while traveling by bus from Kabul to the southern city of Kandahar. The women are mostly in their 20s and 30s. The group was on a 10-day relief mission to do volunteer work in Kandahar hospitals. Some of the group were nurses and teachers.

They represented the largest group of foreigners taken hostage in Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S. military invasion, which drove the Taliban from power in the country. It was reported that the Taliban have demanded that the Afghan government release 23 Taliban prisoners and that South Korea withdraw its troops from Afghanistan.

As U.N. Secretary Ban Ki Moon, a former South Korean diplomat, said, the South Korean “hostages include many women who came to help the people of Afghanistan and they should not be made part of the conflict in that country.”

The day before the kidnapping of the South Koreans, two German engineers were kidnapped by the Taliban along with five Afghans. The body of one of the German engineers was discovered July 22. Reports said the Taliban demanded the release of Taliban prisoners and the withdrawal of German troops. In March, the Afghan government released five Taliban fighters in exchange for the release of a kidnapped Italian reporter.

Human Rights Watch says the Taliban have kidnapped at least 41 Afghan civilians so far this year and killed at least 23.

In South Korea, some people criticized the 23 volunteers for having gone to a country with an unstable security situation, and the church that dispatched them. But the Taliban are first and foremost to blame for putting in harm’s way a well-intentioned group of people eager to help the suffering people of Afghanistan.

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