Father Alexis Prem Kumar, a Jesuit priest and Indian national, was abducted in western Afghanistan on Monday afternoon. According to The Hindu, India’s largest English language newspaper, Kumar was kidnapped during a visit to a Jesuit Relief Services school in Sodhadat village, 15 miles outside the city of Herat. While UPI and other news outlets are reporting that Kumar was taken by “unidentified assailants,” The Hindu says that Taliban militants are responsible:
Catholic priest Alexis Prem Kumar from Kodaikanal, working with an educational charity, “was abducted by six Taliban militants in Zenda Jan district this afternoon,” said Mohammad Nader Fahimi, a police official in Herat province.
Father Kumar is director of the Dindigul unit of Jesuit Refugee Service, a Catholic organization that assists refugees around the world. The Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman in New Delhi said an “Indian national working with an NGO in Herat province of Afghanistan has been kidnapped. Our Mission is pursuing the matter with local authorities.”
Jesuit Refugee Services International Director Peter Balleis issued a brief statement:
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. Meanwhile, our prayers are with Prem and his family and friends at this difficult time.
The kidnapping follows on the heels of a heavily-armed attack on the Indian consulate in Herat last month. Insurgents attacked the consulate with rocket propelled grenades and AK-47s in the pre-dawn hours of May 23rd. Police and Afghan security forces secured the embassy after a firefight that went on for nearly eight hours; the staff of the consulate was safely evacuated. The violence comes as Afghans prepare for presidential run-off elections on June 14.