Al Jazeera: South Korea paid $20 million ransom for hostages

Yeah, yeah, it’s Al Jazeera, but a Japanese newspaper quotes an Afghan source independently as saying it’s true. The numbers are dramatically different — $2 million per Asahi Shimbun, as much as $20 million per AJ — but it was decidedly odd that the Taliban would agree to free all 19 in exchange for nothing more than reassurances from the South Korean government that they’ll go ahead with their pullout by the end of the year as planned and will halt Christian missions to Afghanistan, especially since the original demand had been for a prisoner exchange. This makes more sense as a quid pro quo.

Lesson learned:

[Alan Fisher, reporting for Al Jazeera from Kabul in Afghanistan] also reported that kidnappings by the Taliban were likely to continue.

“In a vow to continue with the kidnappings they [the Taliban] said that ‘we will do the same thing with other allies in Afghanistan because we found this way to be successful’,” he said.

There were all kinds of rumors about Italy having paid secret ransoms to Iraq jihadis in exchange for various hostages in 2004. The Berlusconi government officially denied it but the captors of three private contractors claimed they got $4 million and, in a separate incident, an Italian paliamentary commission official said he thought at least $1 million had been paid for the release of two aid workers.

Some South Korean officials want to recoup the airfare and medical expenses for the hostages from the hostages themselves. Yes, really.