It was a night of anxiety across South Korea as the fate of 22 of its citizens held hostage in Afghanistan hung in the balance. The Taliban has reportedly threatened to kill them by midday unless the government in Kabul releases captured fighters. This latest ultimatum came after the killing of one hostage. At the moment diplomacy is seen as the main hope of securing the group’s freedom. The governer of the Ghazni region, where they were seized last week, said: “We will continue to the last moment to help release the hostages through peaceful channels, through negotiations. If all channels fail then we will make the decision, we will make the appropriate, the best decision.” The eighteen women and four men, all members of a protestant church, flew to Afghanistan on an aid mission. Fears for their safety have soared since the bullet- ridden body of their leader was found on Wednesday. Even though negotiations are taking place, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has pledged not to swap prisoners for hostages after being criticised at home and abroad for releasing five Taliban from jail in March in exchange for an Italian reporter.