Taliban militants on Thursday released the final seven South Korean captives, bringing an end to a six-week hostage drama.
Witnesses said the captives were released in two stages. First, the militants handed over two men and two women to officials from the International Committee of the Red Cross on a road in the Janda area of central Afghanistan.
Then, two women and one man who were covered in dust walked out of the desert, accompanied by three armed men, and were also turned over to waiting ICRC officials.
South Korean presidential spokesman Cheon Ho-sun said Thursday that the group will be heading to Kabul before returning home via Dubai.
The Taliban originally kidnapped 23 South Koreans as they traveled by bus from Kabul to the former militant stronghold of Kandahar on July 19.
In late July, the militants killed two male hostages, and they released two women earlier this month as gesture of goodwill. Another 12 were freed on Wednesday.
The Taliban gave up on their demands that militant prisoners be swapped for the hostages. Instead, they accepted face-to-face talks with a South Korean delegation. It pledged that the country's 200 troops would leave Afghanistan by the end of the year as originally planned.
The South Korean delegation also agreed to prevent its citizens from working in Afghanistan.
A senior Afghan lawmaker says Saudi Arabia and Pakistan pressured the Taliban from behind the scenes to release the hostages.
But Afghan officials say they worry the fact the Taliban was able to negotiate directly with the South Koreans will only spur more kidnappings.
From NPR reports and The Associated Press