Taliban involved in December attacks on S Koreans in

Afghanistan: official

Seoul, Feb 11 (Yonhap) Taliban insurgents were behind thebrief kidnapping of South Korean workers and the attack on aSouth Korean-operated construction site in Afghanistan inDecember, an official said today, sparking concern aboutsecurity for Koreans staying in the war-torn nation.

The revelations reinforced speculation that the militantgroup could also have carried out today''s rocket attack on thebase for South Korean aid workers in northern Afghanistan amidreports Taliban insurgents have moved to northern parts of thecountry in large numbers after US military operations insouthern parts last year.

"Afghan intelligence authorities have notified us that itwas the Taliban that attacked South Korean companies" inDecember last year, a senior government official said oncondition of anonymity.

On Dec 13, two South Korean construction workers weretaken by four armed men in Afghanistan while traveling totheir workplace in a vehicle along with one local driver andtwo bodyguards. Local police rescued the hostages after agunfight with the kidnappers.

Five days later, a group of armed assailants attacked aSouth Korean-operated construction site in northernAfghanistan, killing one Bangladeshi worker and apparentlyabducting seven others after a gunfight with local police,though no South Koreans were hurt in the attack.

On Tuesday this week, unidentified assailants fired fiverounds of rocket-propelled grenades toward the newly builtbase in Afghanistan for South Korean aid workers and troops inthe city of Charika in the northern Afghan province of Parwan.

Three of them landed in an open area on the base and theother two outside the facility, but no one was hurt in theattack. South Korea has since decided to indefinitely postponea formal opening ceremony for the base set for next week.

A total of 369 South Koreans were on the base at thetime of the attack, including 57 civilian aid workers and 35police officers, who belong to the country''s provincialreconstruction team (PRT), as well as 277 troops tasked withprotecting the team.

South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin had visitedthe base earlier Tuesday, and the attack came after he leftthe facility. That raised speculation that Kim might have beena target, but defense officials said that such a possibilityis unlikely.

The base site came under two similar attacks in thepast, one in June last year and the other in January, thoughnone were hurt in the attacks. It is not known who were behindthe attacks.

Northern Afghanistan has been considered largely safe,compared with southern strongholds of Taliban insurgents.

But an official said that the government is looking into anintelligence report that Taliban insurgents have moved tonorthern Afghanistan in large numbers after US-led alliedforces carried out intensive operations last year to drive outTaliban insurgents from their southern strongholds.

The South Korean PRT began its mission last year to helprebuild the war-torn nation by strengthening the Parwanprovincial government''s administrative capabilities andoffering medical services as well as vocational and policetraining. (Yonhap)

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