Suspect held over Herat abduction

Father Alexis Prem Kumar
Father Alexis Prem Kumar
Father Alexis Prem Kumar

Afghan security forces on Wednesday arrested a suspect in connection with the kidnapping of an Indian aid worker, Jesuit priest Father Alexis Prem Kumar, in western Herat province even as his family in Tamil Nadu prayed for his safety and sought “good news”.

According to Kaama Press, provincial security chief Samiullah Qatra of Herat said that an unnamed suspect had been taken into custody for further investigations.

Police and intelligence operatives in Afghanistan have launched a search operation to free the 47-year-old Prem Kumar, head of NGO Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), who was abducted from Zendjan district Monday while he was visiting a project site.

Alexis was visiting a school for Afghan refugee children and had just returned from a trip to Iran and Pakistan.

Local residents in Zendjan district said that the kidnappers might have taken Prem Kumar to Gulran district.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the abduction.

His family in Tamil Nadu is praying for his safe return.

“We are all in the dark about my brother kidnapped in Afghanistan. Please give us some good news about him and his safety,” said his brother Albert Manoharan.

“The information flow seems to be one way – from our side. There is no news about my brother in Afghanistan,” Manoharan told IANS over phone from Sivaganga district where the family lives.

He said his brother was working with an education charity in Herat province.

“We spoke to him after the Indian consulate in Herat was attacked by militants recently. My brother said he is safe and there are no threats to him,” Manoharan said.

According to Manoharan, an official of the Indian embassy in Afghanistan spoke to him and assured him that necessary steps are being taken.

He said the family members have petitioned the Sivaganga district collector who, in turn, told them that action is already being taken at the highest levels of the Indian government.

Father Prem Kumar was in constant touch with his family in India from Afghanistan through Skype network.

The JRS confirmed that on Monday afternoon its country director, Alexis Prem Kumar, was abducted by a group of unidentified men in western Afghanistan.

“We are deeply shocked by Prem’s abduction. We are in contact with all the relevant authorities and doing everything possible to ensure his safe and speedy return. Meanwhile, our prayers are with Prem and his family and friends at this difficult time,” said JRS’ international director, Peter Balleis, SJ.

Before moving to Afghanistan four years ago, Prem Kumar had worked for the JRS, serving Sri Lankan refugees living in Tamil Nadu. He is presently the JRS Afghanistan’ director, the JRS said.

JRS has been working in Afghanistan since 2005 accompanying returnees home from exile in Iran and Pakistan and providing education and healthcare services in Bamiyan, Kabul and Herat. In 2013, more than 6,000 vulnerable people from disadvantaged communities benefitted from these services.

In order to facilitate the rapid and safe return of Prem Kumar, the JRS will not be making further statements on the situation for the moment, it said in a statement.

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