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Indian aid worker abducted in Afghanistan returns home, family thanks govt

india Updated: Jul 23, 2016 22:47 IST
Judith D’Souza

Judith D'Souza, an Indian woman kidnapped last month from Kabul in Afghanistan, arrived at the Delhi airport on Saturday.(Ravi Choudhary / HT Photo)

An Indian aid worker abducted in Kabul was rescued and flown back to India on Saturday evening.

Judith D’Souza, 40, was held captive by local gangsters and not terrorists, which made efforts for her release an easier affair, a source said, but refused to divulge details. “She was kidnapped because she is a foreigner.”

No ransom was paid, though there was a demand, sources said. An Afghan security official told AFP she was rescued in an operation in a district of Kabul on Friday.

An adviser with the Agha Khan Foundation, D’Souza was abducted along with her driver and security guard by gunmen from outside her office in the Afghan capital on June 9. The men were later released.

She arrived at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport at 6pm, accompanied by Indian ambassador to Afghanistan Manpreet Vohra, and later called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj.

“Welcome to India Judith,” Modi tweeted after the meeting.

“I am happy to inform you Judith D’Souza has been rescued. D’Souza is with us, safe and in good spirits... I have spoken to Judith. She is reaching Delhi this evening,” Swaraj had announced on Twitter earlier in the day.

“We are happy our daughter is safe. We would like to thank the external affairs ministry and the government of India for their efforts to bring her back,” said Denzil D’Souza at the family home in Kolkata.

“We have no idea how she was rescued. In fact, we aren’t interested in knowing. We just want Judith back safe.”

The month before she was taken, the Indian embassy in Kabul had warned Indians in Afghanistan to avoid areas frequented by foreigners because of the possibility of terror attacks and hostage-taking.

Aid workers in particular have been targeted in Afghanistan in recent years. A Catholic priest from India, Alexis Prem Kumar, was kidnapped by gunmen in Herat city in June 2014 and rescued in February the next year.

Soon after D’Souza’s abduction 45 days ago, her family had written to PM Modi seeking his intervention, and the PM in turn had requested Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to expedite efforts to secure her release. D’Souza’s brother had met Swaraj in Delhi as late as Friday with another appeal for her safe return.

Swaraj lauded the efforts of the Indian envoy in securing D’Souza’s release while also thanking Afghan authorities.

D’Souza had been working in Afghanistan for 17 months, her second stint in the city, and was to return to Kolkata on June 15 for a holiday.

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