The 23 South Koreans captured in Afghanistan a few days ago are still being threatened with execution, but the deadline has been delayed.
If their captors follow through, the group of hostages would be the largest such group killed by the Taliban. It also would mark the first killings of foreign women by the Taliban.
The hostages are controversial because they are members of a church group that rented a bus for $800 in Kabul to travel on one of Afghanistan's most dangerous roads, to Kandahar, a dangerous city.
Hundreds of South Koreans affiliated with church groups were expelled last summer after being accused of trying to convert Afghans to Christianity. The Afghan ambassador who granted the visas was fired. It is highly unusual that this group was allowed into the country.
A South Korean delegation is now in Afghanistan trying to secure the hostages' release.
If Afghan President Hamid Karzai releases 23 Taliban prisoners — as the kidnappers have demanded — it would be a significant shift in policy.