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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hostage Deadline Extended

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A purported Taliban spokesman said Sunday that the hard-line militia was extending by 24 hours a deadline for the Afghan government to trade captured militants for 23 South Korean hostages.

Qari Yousef Ahmadi, who claims to speak for the Taliban, said the militants were giving the Afghan and South Korean governments until 7 p.m. Monday to respond to their demand that 23 Taliban prisoners be freed in exchange for the Koreans. Ahmadi previously had said the deadline was 7 p.m. Sunday.

A police chief in Ghazni province said Afghan officials and elders had met with the kidnappers Sunday to resolve the crisis. U.S. and Afghan troops also surrounded the area in southern Ghazni province where the Koreans are thought to be held in case military commanders decide to carry out a rescue operation.

"As soon as we receive the order, we will start the operation," said Defense Ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi.

A delegation of eight Korean officials arrived in Kabul on Sunday to meet with President Hamid Karzai.

Ahmadi said Taliban commanders wanted to give the South Korean government more time to persuade the Afghan government to release the Taliban prisoners.

The 23 Koreans, including 18 women, work at an aid organization in Kandahar, said Sidney Serena, a political affairs officer at the South Korean Embassy.