HindustanTimes Mon,29 Dec 2014

Indian consulate warned priest abducted in Herat

Harinder Baweja, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, June 06, 2014
First Published: 00:07 IST(6/6/2014) | Last Updated: 00:20 IST(6/6/2014)

Indian aid worker Fr Alexis Prem Kumar, taken hostage in Herat by the Taliban on June 2 was called to the Indian consulate and briefed by consul general Amit Mishra about a threat to his life, government sources told HT.

“On June 1, Kumar was told not to leave the city limits of Herat. He was kidnapped the next day,’’ the official said.

Weeks prior to his kidnapping, Kumar postponed a trip to Sohadat village, 25 km out of Heart, after locals warned him not to come because the Taliban was looking for him.

Kumar, who works with international NGO Jesuit Refugee Service, was returning from a school in Sohadat on June 2 when he was taken hostage by armed gunmen. A senior MEA official said, “No demands have yet been made.’’

Asked about the motive behind the kidnapping, he said, “It could be because of his nationality, his religion and the fact that he was working in the education sector. The Taliban are against education and have often targeted schools.’’

All Indians in Afghanistan are high-risk targets and advisories are issued periodically to them. There was specific information regarding Kumar which he ignored despite being briefed.

The Indian high commission in Kabul and the ministry of external affairs are in touch with Afghan authorities to secure his release.

Three held

Afghan security forces arrested three Taliban members involved in the kidnapping of Fr Kumar, a government official said Thursday. The men were being questioned about the hideouts used by the group that abducted the 47-year-old priest and aid worker, said interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi.

“The police are doing their best to ensure his safe release,” Sediqqi said. A search operation was ongoing, he said, but declined to provide further details.

Kumar’s abduction came nearly two weeks after a thwarted attack on the Indian consulate in Herat by four armed gunmen.

TN chief minister J Jayalalithaa on Thursday also requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and secure Kumar’s release as he may be in danger.

(With inputs from AP)

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