The Taliban freed eight of their 19 South Korean captives on Wednesday as the wrenching six-week hostage crisis in Afghanistan neared resolution.
The kidnappers were scheduled to free four more hostages later on Wednesday, one of the militia’s negotiators said.
“We have prepared for four more hostages, three female and a male, to be freed today (Wednesday),” said Taliban commander Qari Mohammad Bashir, hours after eight others were released.
The Islamic extremist movement handed over seven women and one man to tribal elders in two separate releases outside the central town of Ghazni. The aid workers were then driven to safety in Red Cross vehicles.
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) representative Greg Muller confirmed that eight hostages had been released and taken to the Red Crescent Society offices in Ghazni, 140 km south of Kabul.
“As far as I can see, they seem to be in good health,” Muller said.
Some of the women were wearing colourful headscarves and appeared to be weeping. They covered their faces as they were bundled into vehicles.
“One of them spoke to her mother and father over the phone,” tribal elder Haji Mohammad Zahir, who was involved in negotiations to free the first group of women, said. “They’re fine but are very tired.”
The South Korean government confirmed that Ahn Hye-Jin, 31, Lee Jeung-Ran, 33, and 34-year-old Han Ji-Young had been freed on Wednesday morning. A second group of four women and one man was released three hours later.
The freed hostages were among 23 Christian aid workers kidnapped by Taliban militants on July 19. Two male captives were executed by their captors and two female hostages were freed earlier this month. The South Korean embassy in Kabul said the freed hostages would be flown home as soon as possible.