ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is in Kabul and joins us now. And, Soraya, what efforts are underway to get the hostages freed?
SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, Host:
Now, the Taliban are saying that the U.S. and Afghans are standing in the way of any kind of prisoner exchange, and President Karzai is in a very difficult position because he said a few months ago, he would never swap prisoners for foreign hostages again.
SIEGEL: How did the South Koreans in this church group, how did they get to a Taliban-controlled area of Afghanistan in the first place?
SARHADDI NELSON: Well, they decided to rent a bus in Kabul for $800 and travel to the south, to Kandahar City. And this is a road, which is in various parts is patrolled by Taliban fighters. So it's a very dangerous thing to do, and nobody here does that, certainly not foreigners. And they were here, though, trying to do volunteer work, according to the South Korean government.
SIEGEL: You said they were doing volunteer work, missionary work or volunteer work?
SARHADDI NELSON: Well, the government insists it was volunteer work, and fresh in Afghans minds is what happened last summer, which there were about a thousand South Koreans here for what was called a Peace Festival. But Islamic clerics complained that they were actually here proselytizing, and so many of them got deported and were forced out.
SIEGEL: And is it accurate that since the Taliban are holding 23 South Koreans, they would be satisfied if 23 Taliban prisoners were released in exchange?
SARHADDI NELSON: But then, you have this commission of tribal elders and lawmakers, who say that the Taliban now are asking for all militants who are being held in jail in Ghazni province to be released. And it's unclear how many that would be, but it's more than 23.
SIEGEL: And other foreign hostages held by the Taliban at this time?
SARHADDI NELSON: But the Afghan officials and German government insisted that only one was dead and that he had died of a heart attack. Now, they did recover a body of what is believed to be one of the German engineers, but it's unclear what he died of. The government has said nothing, and we've heard nothing from the Taliban since then about this other than that they're maintaining that the two Germans were killed as well as the five Afghan co-workers.
SIEGEL: NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in Kabul, Afghanistan. Thank you very much.
SARHADDI NELSON: You're welcome.
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