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South Koreans hostage taker killed

world Updated: Sep 05, 2007 03:47 IST

Afghan police killed a Taliban militant who allegedly played a key role in the July kidnappings of 23 South Korean church workers, officials said on Tuesday.

Mullah Mateen was among 16 militants killed in fighting late Monday and early Tuesday in Ghazni province, where the South Koreans were kidnapped as they traveled to the south of the country, said Ghazni Deputy Gov Kazim Allayar.

Two male hostages were killed early in the crisis, and two others, both female, were released last month. The remaining 19 were freed last week after direct talks between the Taliban and South Korean government representatives.

Allayar said described Mateen as "a very senior Taliban." "During the negotiations (to release the South Koreans), we were in talks with him," he said.

A Taliban spokesman said he was not able to comment on the claim, which a senior police official also made.

Afghanistan has seen a spate of hostage-takings this year. The Taliban are still holding a German engineer and four Afghans kidnapped a day before the South Koreans were.