Al-Azhar, Arab League condemn killing of South Koreans, MB urges release of hostages

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CAIRO: The Arab League and Al-Azhar, the premier Sunni institution of learning, condemned on Tuesday the killing of two South Korean hostages by Afghanistan s Taliban and called for the others to be released.

The Imam of Al-Azhar, Grand Sheikh Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, condemned the execution of the two South Korean hostages and called for the immediate freeing of the remaining ones, in remarks carried by the official Mena news agency.

We are completely opposed to this kidnapping of innocent South Koreans, particularly since they were helping the Afghan people and did not take part in the wars against Afghanistan, he said during a meeting with the South Korean Ambassador to Cairo, Dal-Ho Chung.

The kidnapping and incarceration of innocent civilians is one of the most serious crimes against humanity and contradicts the principles of tolerance in Sunni Islam, he added.

Chung said he asked for the help of Tantawi, because he is a high level spiritual leader in Islam and his appeal will have a strong impact on solving the problem of the hostages.

For his part, Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa also condemned the killings.

These condemnable acts are unacceptable under any condition or justification, he said in a statement.

He called for the immediate and unconditional liberation of the South Korean hostages and their return safe and sound to their country and families.

On Monday, the Taliban shot dead a second South Korean hostage and threatened to kill the others if their demands for a prisoner exchange were not met.

Twenty three hostages on an aid mission from a Seoul church – most aged between 20 and 35 – were seized on July 19 from a bus on the Kabul-Kandahar road, one of the most dangerous roads in Afghanistan.

The group s leader, a 42-year-old pastor, was killed on Wednesday, making him the first hostage to be killed in Afghanistan since April 2006.

Egypt s largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, called on Wednesday for the liberation of the 21 South Korean Christian hostages held by the Taliban in Afghanistan.

In the interest of the Afghan people and so as not to taint the image of Islam, I ask (the kidnappers) not to harm the innocent and liberate them immediately, Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Mehdi Akef said in a statement.

He condemned the foreign presence in Afghanistan but stressed that the movement rejects all practices contrary to Islam.

Earlier Wednesday the Taliban said more of the hostages could be killed at any time after a deadline expired.

The Taliban militia, leading an insurgency after being removed from government in 2001, is demanding the freeing of at least eight of its prisoners in exchange for the South Koreans.

Afghan authorities have rejected the demand after being condemned internationally for a similar deal in March.

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