Taliban strike deal with South Korea to release hostages

Taliban militants were expected to announce details Wednesday of the release of 19 South Koreans held hostage for six weeks after militants struck a deal with the Seoul government. Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said late Tuesday that the South Koreans - mostly females in their 20s and 30s - would be freed "in the coming days" with the involvement of tribal elders, who would act as go-betweens. He gave no more details. Taliban commander Mullah Basheer said the militants would say on Wednesday when and how the captives would be released. They are believed to be held in several different locations. To secure the hostages' release, South Korea reaffirmed a pledge to withdraw its troops by year's end and prevent Christian missionaries from working in Afghanistan, officials said. The Taliban apparently backed down on earlier demands for a prisoner exchange.