Ex-hostages return to South Korea

Kabul, Afghanistan - Two female South Korean church volunteers released from Taliban custody in Afghanistan are expected to arrive in Seoul on Friday, according to the South Korean Foreign Ministry.

The two women were expected to arrive in Seoul about noon local time Friday (0300 GMT), the office said. They were released from Taliban custody on Monday, and left Afghanistan on Thursday, the Foreign Ministry said.

Twenty-three South Koreans were kidnapped on July 19 when they were traveling on a bus from Kabul to Kandahar.

The Taliban killed two male hostages and have long said they would kill others unless their demands were met. But the two women, said to be ill, were released in a "gesture of goodwill."

Nineteen other hostages -- 14 women and five men -- are still being held.

Taliban and South Korean officials held talks on Thursday over the fate of the remaining 19 South Korean hostages, a Red Cross official told CNN.

Carla Haddad, a media-relations officer for the International Committee of the Red Cross, confirmed to CNN that the talks took place in the office of the Afghan Red Crescent Society in Ghazni province.

She said the talks were held for a couple of hours and are over for the day. She couldn't say when the next round of talks would be and provide details about today's meeting.

The ICRC has been taken a role as a "neutral intermediary" in the discussions, but it has not participated in the negotiations.

The talks resumed after negotiations between the Taliban and South Korea that started late last week led to the release of two female hostages. Those negotiations were held in the same Red Crescent location.

"ICRC personnel handed them over to a South Korean delegation in the town of Ghazni," ICRC said on Monday.

Last week, negotiators touched on demands for prisoner swaps. Another demand is the pullout of Korean troops from Afghanistan.


Yonhap News Agency in South Korea quoted a tribal elder as saying the Taliban and the South Koreans have been in contact over the telephone in the last five days.