KABUL, Afghanistan, July 20 (UPI) -- The 23 South Korean Christians kidnapped in Afghanistan are being held by the Taliban, the group said Friday.
They are the largest group of foreigners to be abducted in the war-torn country, The Times of London said. Said Yousuf Ahmadi, who claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, has said militants under his command abducted two Germans and five Afghans working on a dam near Kabul.
The South Koreans, 18 of them women, were on their way to Kandahar when their bus was hijacked about 100 miles from Kabul.
"They are young Korean Christians who were engaged in short-term evangelistic activity and service for children in Kandahar," said Joseph Park of the Christian Council of Korea. "We cannot turn away from poor people and children there just because of safety risks."
South Korea has no soldiers in Afghanistan but has contributed 200 medical workers to the coalition forces.
Ahmadi told The Times the group's fate is "in the hands of the Islamic emirate of Afghanistan."
"Right now, they are safe enough," he added.
Shortly before the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban government put two Christians on trial on charges of trying to make converts from Islam and -- said they might face execution if convicted. They were freed unharmed after the fall of the government as the Taliban retreated from Kabul.