The Afghanistan Police on Wednesday claimed to have arrested at least one suspect believed to be involved in the kidnapping of Indian worker Alexis Prem Kumar in Herat province.
The Afghan media reported that the man in question is being interrogated by the Afghan officials for more leads. Meanwhile, an advisory has been issued by the Indian Consulate to all Indians residing there to be more careful. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is also closely monitoring the situation in Herat.
The development comes hours after the United States said that it is in touch with India and Afghanistan on the abduction of the Indian aid worker from the Herat province by some gunmen believed to be associated with Taliban.
“We are aware of the reports that an Indian national has been kidnapped near Herat,” a state department spokesperson said when asked about the abduction of 47-year-old Prem Kumar, country director of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS).
“We are in touch with the Indian and Afghan authorities regarding this issue,” the spokesperson said.
Importantly, Herat province Governor Sayed Fazlullah Wahidi today confirmed that Taliban is behind the kidnapping of the Indian worker.
A native of Tamil Nadu, Kumar was working with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), an educational charity, as its Afghanistan Director and has been in the war-torn country for over three years.
Before moving to Afghanistan, Kumar had worked for the JRS, serving Sri Lankan refugees in Tamil Nadu.
Kumar had accompanied teachers on a visit to a JRS-supported school for the returnee refugees in Sohadat village, 25 km from the city of Herat. He was kidnapped from the school as he was about to return to Herat, the JRS said.
The abduction comes nearly 10 days after the attack on the Indian Consulate in Herat by four heavily-armed gunmen carrying rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns.
The attackers were subsequently killed by the security forces who repelled the attack on May 23.
On May 29, the Indian mission in Herat had issued an advisory asking its nationals to exercise extreme caution while venturing out.
“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,” said Jesuit Refugee Service International Director Peter Balleis.
Headquartered in Rome, JRS is an international Catholic organisation with a mission to accompany, serve and advocate on behalf of forcibly displaced persons.
Meanwhile, Prem’s family appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to secure early release of their kin.
The Indian aid worker continues to remain in captivity for the third day on Tuesday with local authorities yet to get any “conclusive” clues in the case.
According to officials, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is monitoring the situation relating to the abduction. The External Affairs Ministry also denied that the abducted Indian was in any way connected to the Indian government, which is carrying out developmental and reconstruction work in Afghanistan.