ROME – Security forces in Afghanistan have arrested three men in connection with the kidnapping of a Jesuit priest from India.
The arrests, announced by an Afghan government official, include a man taken into custody on June 4 while two others were detained on June 5 in connection with the disappearance of Fr Alexis Prem Kumar.
He was abducted on June 2 as he was leaving a school serving children who were recently returned to Afghanistan after living as refugees in Iran or Pakistan, reported the Afghan news agency Khaama Press. The Associated Press reported the government official said all three men were Taliban members.
Church officials in India expressed concern for the safety of Fr Prem Kumar, 47, who has worked in Afghanistan since 2011. Fr Joseph Chinnayan, deputy secretary-general of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, appealed to the Indian government to quickly seek the Jesuit’s release.
Mr Syed Akbaruddin, spokesman for India’s External Affairs Ministry, said via a Twitter post that Indian officials in Herat were pursuing the matter with local authorities, Asian Church news portal ucanews.com reported.
Before moving to Afghanistan, Fr Prem Kumar worked for JRS for 12 years, serving Sri Lankan refugees living in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, his home. He was director of JRS in India from June 2005 to May 2011 and then moved to Afghanistan.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured top level intervention for the priest’s safe release but said the situation is “extremely delicate”.
In a letter to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, Mr Modi said “the government will spare no effort” to ensure the priest’s release. – CNS, UCANEWS.COM
Priest visited S’pore in 2011
Fr Alexis Prem Kumar visited Singapore from June 30-July 3, 2011, spending time with members of Jesuit Refugee Service Singapore and calling on then-Archbishop Nicholas Chia.
He celebrated World Refugee Day Mass on July 2 during which he spoke about his work with refugees and displaced persons. Some JRS volunteers had kept in touch with him after his visit here.
Prayers have also been held for Fr Prem Kumar in recent days.