An Indian Jesuit priest who was kidnapped by the Taliban in Afghanistan last year has been released.
Fr Alexis Prem Kumar SJ, who worked for three years as Afghanistan country director for Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Herat province, was abducted by Taliban gunmen in June 2014. He has now been released after eight months in captivity.
Fr Kumar’s release was negotiated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who tweeted on Sunday:
Have spoken to Father Alexis Prem Kumar. Informed happy family of Father Alexis Prem Kumar of his safe return after 8 months in captivity.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 22, 2015
Fr Kumar’s father, ASM Antony, who has traveled to Delhi with two other family members to welcome his son home, said: “The Prime Minister spoke to me to inform me about my son’s release from captivity. We have been waiting for this day. I must thank the Prime Minister for his personal efforts.”
Fr Peter Balleis SJ, JRS’s International Director, said the organisation was also very grateful to Prime Minister Modi for helping to secure Fr Kumar’s release.
“The last eight months have been a long and difficult period of uncertainty for Fr Prem’s family, friends and colleagues,” he said.
“You cannot imagine our relief that he is now home, safe and sound. We are aware of the tireless efforts at many levels to achieve his release and we are grateful for the consolation we have received from the prayerful support of countless friends – including those of the school children from the school where he was kidnapped.”
Before moving to Afghanistan five years ago, Fr Kumar worked for JRS, serving Sri Lankan refugees living in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.