By BosNewsLife Asia Service
NEW DELHI/KABUL (BosNewsLife)– Afghan security forces have detained three members of the Islamic Taliban group for their alleged involvement in kidnapping an Indian Jesuit priest working in western Herat province, officials said Thursday, June 5.
The the men were being questioned about the June 9 abduction of the 47-year-old Alexis Prem Kumar, a priest and aid worker, according to Afghan’s Interior Ministry.
The announcement came shortly after in his home state of Tamil Nadu, India, tribal people and representatives of aid groups prayed for his release.
During the mass prayer in the town of Kodaikanal volunteers reportedly recalled the priests’ dedication to supporting poor tribals.
“He was working for welfare of tribal children and for Sri Lankan refugees simultaneously. Many tribal women and children were benefited by his selfless service. We have got houses, ration cards and identity cards only because of him,” tribal speakers reportedly said.
In India, several powerful regional politicians have appealed to the Indian prime minister to press Afghan leaders to secure the priest’s release.
Kumar is country director in Afghanistan for Jesuit Refugee Services, an educational charity working with displaced and impoverished communities in Afghanistan. He has been working in Afghanistan since 2011, despite Islamic attacks.
Kumar’s abduction came nearly two weeks after a thwarted attack on the Indian consulate in Herat by four armed gunmen, who were killed by security guards. “We are all in the dark about my brother who has been kidnapped in Afghanistan. Please give us some good news about him and his safety,” Kumar’s brother, Albert Manoharan, told reporters at the family home in Tamil Nadu.
“We spoke to him after the Indian consulate in Herat was attacked,” Manoharan told media. “My brother said he is safe and there are no threats for him.” Christian aid workers have been targeted in the past. In April Afghan Christian were mourning three Americans who were shot and killed at a Kabul hospital funded by an American Christian charity.
Normally quiet Herat has seen increased violence over the past year as the Taliban and other insurgents increase attacks ahead of the pullout of foreign combat troops at the end of the year, The Associated Press (AP) news agency reported. Militants also staged a large scale attack on the U.S. consulate in last September, killing two guards.