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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 September 2007, 10:24 GMT 11:24 UK
S Koreans told 'convert or die'
Former South Korean hostages at news conference (12/09/07)
The former hostages said they thought they would be killed
A group of South Koreans held hostage by Taleban militants in Afghanistan have said they were beaten and ordered at gunpoint to convert to Islam.

At a news conference in Seoul, the former captives also said they were made to work "like slaves" during their six-week ordeal.

Twenty-one members of the group were freed last month following an agreement between South Korea and the captors.

Two of the hostages - all Christian aid workers - had already been killed.

Beaten and kicked

The former hostages said they feared for their lives at times when their captors turned violent.

"We were beaten with a tree branch or kicked around. Some kidnappers threatened us with death at gunpoint to force us to follow them in chanting their Islamic prayer for conversion," said Jae Chang-hee.

Armed Taleban aimed their guns at us, and a pit was before me
Yu Jung-hwa
"I was beaten many times. They pointed a rifle and bayonet at me and tried to force me to convert."

He said the group "lived like slaves. We had to level the ground for motorbikes, and get water and make a fire".

Another of the group, Yu Jung-hwa, described how she thought she was going to die.

"The most difficult moment, when I had a big fear of death, was when the Taleban shot [a] video.

"All 23 of us leaned against a wall and armed Taleban aimed their guns at us, and a pit was before me.

"They said they will save us if we believe in Islam. I almost fainted at the time and I still cannot look at cameras," she said.

Leader executed

Cha Hae-jin said the group were kept "in a closed place like a shed" and were not allowed to go out. "It was like suffocating", she said.

Han Ji-young recalled how the leader of the group, Bae Hyung-kyu, was led away to his death.

"One day, a Taleban called Bae and checked his first and last names and took him out of the room.

"Bae didn't even look at us when he was leaving the room. He only said 'Overcome with faith'," Ms Han said, in tears.

South Korea's intelligence chief has refused to deny that his government paid a ransom to obtain the group's release.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
The aid workers describe the hostage conditions



SEE ALSO
Freed S Korean hostages 'sorry'
02 Sep 07 |  Asia-Pacific
In pictures: S Korea Christians return
02 Sep 07 |  In Pictures
S Korea denies hostage payments
31 Aug 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Taleban free all Korean hostages
30 Aug 07 |  South Asia
S Koreans rethink missionary work
29 Aug 07 |  South Asia
S Korea press wary of hostage deal
30 Aug 07 |  Asia-Pacific

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