Ex-hostages say Taliban beat them

Some of the South Korean Christian aid workers held hostage by Afghanistan’s Taliban said they were beaten for refusing to convert to Islam and protecting female captives, a hospital chief said on Monday.

”We found through medical checks that some male hostages were beaten,” Cha Seung-Gyun told reporters after the 19 freed aid workers — 14 women and five men — underwent examinations at a hospital outside Seoul.

They had returned home on Sunday after six weeks in captivity.

”They said they were beaten at first for refusing to take part in Islamic prayers or for rejecting a demand to convert,” Cha said.

The disclosure was likely to increase public sympathy for the ex-hostages, mostly in their 20s and 30s, following increasing criticism of what was seen as a reckless trip to a war-torn devoutly Islamic nation.

President Roh Moo-Hyun on Monday ordered that the former captives repay some of the costs of their rescue, which followed a deal between South Korean government negotiators in Afghanistan and the hard-line Islamic insurgents.

The hospital chief said two male hostages, Je Chang-Hee and Song Byung-Woo, were beaten or threatened with death when they refused to move out of a dug-out shelter and leave some of their female colleagues behind.

But Cha said medical checks on the women showed no signs of rape, and they did not report having been sexually assaulted.

The aid workers repeatedly apologised after arriving home early on Sunday. They were taken to Sam Anyang General Hospital, south of the capital, for check-ups.

Cha said the men had fully recovered and no longer showed external signs of their beatings. He did not say how many of the hostages had been assaulted.

A pastor from the Saem-Mul Presbyterian Church which organised the ill-fated mission said on Sunday that some male hostages had been ”severely beaten” for refusing to embrace Islam.

The pastor, Park Eun-Jo, also said some of the women had been ”at risk of being sexually assaulted”.

Cha said six or seven female hostages showed symptoms of insomnia and depression, and expressed worries about their lives after being released from hospital.

”Some patients require a close look and intensive care and treatment,” he said, adding they are still suffering from shock after learning upon their release that two male hostages were murdered in July.

The ex-hostages need about two weeks of treatment, he said. — AFP



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