September 1, 2007 / 5:25 AM / 12 years ago

EXCLUSIVE-Taliban say S.Korea paid over $20 mln ransom

KABUL, Sept 1 (Reuters) - South Korea paid Afghanistan’s Taliban more than $20 million to release 19 missionaries they were holding hostage, a senior insurgent leader said on Saturday, vowing to use the funds to buy arms and mount suicide attacks.

"We got more than $20 million dollars from them (the Seoul government), the commander told Reuters on condition of anonymity. "With it we will purchase arms, get our communication network renewed and buy vehicles for carrying out more suicide attacks."

The commander is on the 10-man leadership council of the Islamist Taliban movement, which is led by the elusive Mullah Mohammad Omar.

The freed hostages flew out of Afghanistan on Friday to Dubai en route for South Korea. Seoul has denied paying a ransom, but critics say negotiating with the Taliban sets a dangerous precedent that could spur more kidnappings — which the Taliban have vowed to carry out.

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