Indian Jesuit NGO Director Taken Hostage in Afghanistan

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Indian Jesuit NGO Director Taken Hostage in Afghanistan
New Delhi:  Jesuit Father Alexis Prem Kumar Antonysamy has been identified as the Indian national kidnapped in Afghanistan on Monday. He is the country head of Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) - an international NGO in Afghanistan. Father Kumar was taken by unidentified armed men in an area outside Herat, the capital of the western province of the same name, bordering Iran. He was reportedly visiting a school for Afghan refugee children from Iran and Pakistan outside the city of Herat. Sources have told NDTV he was advised not to travel out of the capital.

Indian-Afghan Officials Working on Recovery

Indian officials are in touch with local authorities in an effort to rescue Father Kumar. His superiors and colleagues in JRS are in Herat and are in contact with Indian officials to resolve the issue. No group is known to have taken responsibility so far. Father Kumar is reportedly a member of the Madurai Jesuit Province in Tamil Nadu. He has worked with JRS for a decade and in Afghanistan for three years.

Indians Targeted in Afghanistan

This is the first such incident since November 2005, when 36-year-old R Maniyappan working with the Border Road Organisation was taken hostage and then beheaded. In 2003, two engineers working to build a highway were also kidnapped but later released. The Indian Embassy in Kabul was attacked twice in the past. In July 2008, Defence Attache Brig R D Mehta, Counsellor V Venkateswara Rao, ITBP personnel Roop Singh and Ajay Pathania were killed in a suicide car bomb attack. Over 50 other Afghans also were killed. In October 2009, no Indians were hurt in another suicide attack outside the embassy. Nine Indians, including unarmed Army medical and educational personnel, were killed in an attack on a guesthouse in February 2010.

Indians Targeted in Herat

India's consulate in Herat had been attacked on May 23. All four attackers were killed and no Indian was injured. Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai had blamed the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba for the assault, while he was in Delhi for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's swearing-in ceremony and for a bilateral meeting. Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh has just returned from a trip to Afghanistan and reviewed security for Indian missions and assets in Afghanistan. Safer locations for India's five missions are being located by both sides.

JRS' Background

The JRS says it "works in 50 countries to meet educational, health, social and other needs of refugees and other forcibly displaced workers". The NGO says it has been providing primary, secondary and informal education in Afghanistan since 2005. Last year, its website says, "Teams in Bamiyan, Herat, Daikundi and Kabul offered training and support to teachers and 4,500 boys and girls." The website adds, "The JRS-supported Herat Technical Institute has grown rapidly in seven years, and today offers technical hands-on education and English-language training to 880 students, including more than 230 girls."



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