Page last updated at 07:15 GMT, Tuesday, 8 December 2009

South Korea confirms new troops for Afghanistan

South Korean soldiers preparing to deploy to Afghanistan in 2001
The last South Korean deployment to Afghanistan ended in late 2007

South Korea says it will send 350 troops to Afghanistan next year to protect South Korean civilian engineers working on reconstruction.

The South Koreans had about 200 soldiers in Afghanistan until 2007 but withdrew them after Taliban forces kidnapped South Korean missionaries.

Two of the hostages were killed but 21 were released.

Officials have said the South Korean troops will not do any fighting except to protect the aid team.

The new troops will be backed by helicopters, armoured vehicles and an unmanned reconnaissance drone to protect the 100 civilian engineers and 40 police.

The South Korean contingent will be based in Parwan province just north of Kabul for 30 months from 1 July next year, the defence ministry said.

A cabinet meeting Tuesday approved the deployment and the ministry plans to send a motion this week to parliament for likely approval.

South Korea, a close US ally, currently has 25 medical staff and job training experts working inside the American base at Bagram in Parwan.

Its previous deployment of 210 engineering and medical troops to Afghanistan in 2002 was withdrawn in December 2007.

Taliban insurgents took 23 South Korean Christian missionaries hostage in the summer of 2007 and murdered two of them. The Taliban was demanding that South Korea withdraw its troops - a departure South Korea said was already scheduled.

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