The Taliban freed the seven remaining South Korean missionaries it was holding hostage in Afghanistan this evening, The New York Times reports.
The freeing marks the end of a six-week hostage situation, after 23 church volunteers were abducted in July while traveling in Afghanistan on a medical-aid trip.
"After brokering a deal in face-to-face negotiations with a South Korean delegation on Tuesday, the Taliban freed 12 hostages on Wednesday. All 19 of the freed hostages are expected to fly back to South Korea together in the ne[x]t several days," the Times reports.
Shortly after taking the hostages, the Taliban killed two men and released two women earlier this month.
The Korea Times reports that the government will seeks compensation from the church because the costs were covered by taxpayers' money.
"This is the first time for the government to seek compensation from any organization in Korea for freeing hostages," the newspaper said.
South Korea agreed to withdraw its 200 troops in Afghanistan before year's end and vowed to prevent missionaries traveling to the country.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi told the Associated Press that he plans to abduct more foreigners, reinforcing fears that South Korea's decision to negotiate directly with the militants would create more hostage situations.
"We will do the same thing with the other allies in Afghanistan, because we found this way to be successful," he told the Associated Press via cell phone from an undisclosed location.
While politicians around the world fear that South Korea's deal could set a precedent for future Taliban action, religious leaders are discussing how this might affect short-term missions.