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June 23, 2017

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Afghan official ask Taliban for 2 more days of talks for kidnapped South Koreans

An Afghan governor pleaded Monday with the Taliban to extend a deadline for the lives of 22 South Koreans, after militants warned the Afghan government to release some of its captured fighters or else hostages will die.

Marajudin Pathan, the governor of Ghazni province where the South Koreans went missing on July 19, said that authorities talked to the Taliban after they set the deadline _ for midday Monday _ and asked for two more days of talks.

"Fortunately, they did not reject our demand outright, but said that they need to talk to their leaders," Pathan said, over the phone.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said Sunday the militant group had given a list of 23 insurgent prisoners it wants released to government officials, and if they weren't freed by noon (0730 GMT) Monday, some hostages would be killed.

"It might be a man or a woman ... We may kill one, we may kill two, we may kill one of each (gender), two of each, four of each," Ahmadi told The Associated Press by satellite phone from an unknown location. "Or we may kill all of them at once."

There were no immediate comment from the Taliban on Pathans extension demand.

The Taliban last week set several deadlines that passed without consequence, and it wasn't clear how seriously the militants would treat their latest ultimatum for 22 remaining South Korean hostages, including 18 women. A leader of the South Korean group was shot and killed last week.

The attempts to free South Koreans comes as President Hamid Karzai and other Afghan officials tried to shame the Taliban on Sunday into releasing 18 female South Korean captives, an attempt to tap into a tradition of cultural hospitality and chivalry.

Afghan officials, meanwhile, reported no progress in talks with tribal elders to secure hostages' freedom.

In his first comments since 23 Koreans were abducted on July 19, Karzai criticized the Taliban's kidnapping of "foreign guests," especially women, as contrary to the tenets of Islam.

"The perpetration of this heinous act on our soil is in total contempt of our Islamic and Afghan values," Karzai told a South Korean envoy during a meeting at the presidential palace, according to a statement from his office.

Echoing Karzai's words, Afghanistan's national council of clerics said the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, taught that no one has the right to kill women, children or elders.

"Even in the history of Afghanistan, in all its combat and fighting, Afghans respected women, children and elders," the council said. "The killing of women is against Islam, against the Afghan culture, and they shouldn't do it."

But the Taliban spokesman instead invoked the religious tenet of "an eye for an eye," alleging that Western militaries are holding Afghan females at bases in Bagram and Kandahar, and the Taliban can do the same. He said the Taliban could detain and kill "women, men or children."

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