The bullet-riddled body of a South Korean male hostage was found by police Wednesday in central Afghanistan after a purported Taliban spokesman said the militants had killed one of the 23 captives.
The victim had 10 bullet holes in his head, chest and stomach, and was discovered in the Mushaki area of Qarabagh district in Ghazni province, police officer Abdul Rahman said.
Purported Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said the hostage had been shot and killed around 4 p.m. (7:30 a.m. EDT).
The South Korean hostages, including 18 women, were kidnapped last Thursday while riding a bus through Ghazni province on the Kabul-Kandahar highway, Afghanistan's main thoroughfare.
Two reasons were cited for the captive's murder.
According to a report earlier Wednesday attributed to a police official, Taliban militants shot and killed the South Korean hostage because he was sick and could not walk. But a Taliban spokesman countered that the hostage was killed because Afghan authorities hadn't met their demands to release other militants from prison.
Meanwhile, two Western officials said some others from the group of captives were freed and taken to a U.S. military base in Ghazni. The officials, who asked not to be identified because they weren't authorized to speak publicly, did not know how many were freed.
However the South Korean news agency Yonhap, citing unidentified Korean officials, reported eight Koreans had been released.
Taliban kidnappers had warned earlier they would begin executing some of the hostages.
Ahmadi told The Associated Press that the Afghan government had not responded to any of its demands and that the militants would kill some of the hostages before 2 p.m. (5:30 a.m. EDT).
"The Taliban have lost their patience with it all so they will be killed ... because a lot of time has passed since the deadline and there has been no response," Ahmadi said by satellite phone. "The Taliban takes no responsibility for the killing."
Three previous deadlines for the hostages' lives passed with no consequences.
South Korean negotiators traveled to Ghazni province to take part in the negotiations.
Earlier, a German journalist and two Afghans colleagues apparently kidnapped by Taliban militants in eastern Afghanistan were freed, an Afghan governor said.
Officials found the German and other two captives with the help of villagers in Kunar province, said Gov. Dedar Shalezai.
The three told Shalezai by phone that they are in good health and with Afghan officials.
The German news magazine Stern confirmed that one of its reporters had been in Afghanistan, and the German Foreign Ministry said it was investigating reports of the journalist's abduction.
From NPR reports and The Associated Press