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Taliban releases 12 South Korean hostages

KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 29 (UPI) -- The Taliban released 12 South Korean hostages in Afghanistan Wednesday but seven hostages remained in the hands of their kidnappers.

South Korean Foreign Ministry officials said they believe the seven will be released in the next few days, the Yonhap news agency reported.

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Taliban insurgents kidnapped 23 South Koreans on July 19 while they were traveling unescorted from Kabul to Kandahar, where they hoped to provide free medical services. Two male hostages were killed by their captors earlier this month, while two female hostages were released, bringing the number of captives to 19.

The 12 released hostages were freed in groups of three, five and four, Yonhap said, quoting South Korean Foreign Ministry officials. They said the hostages appeared to be unharmed.

The wave of hostage releases came after the Taliban dropped a demand that they be exchanged for the same number of Taliban fighters in Afghan jails. But South Korean did agree to remove its 200-man reconstruction contingent in the country.

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