NEW DELHI: At 7.30 pm on Sunday, father Alexis Prem Kumar returned to India after eight months in captivity in Afghanistan, landing at the Indira Gandhi International Airport here in an Air India flight to be greeted by dazzling flashbulbs and jostling media representatives. “I want to thank the Almighty. Also this is because of our Prime Minister Modi that I am here,” said the haggard-looking priest on arrival. “I sincerely thank PM Modi and officials of the Foreign Ministry. They have done a great job,” he said.
The Jesuit priest had been in Afghanistan for three years, teaching children in Herat, as he worked with Jesuit Refugee Service. He was kidnapped from Sohadat, about 35 km from Herat on June 5, 2014. He had gone there on a trip with Afghan teachers.
The kidnapping happened a fortnight after the Indian consulate in Herat was attacked with rocket-propelled grenades on May 23, 2014.
Since then, while the families and the Jesuit community occasionally raised the issue of his captivity, it remained relatively below the radar compared to other cases of hostage taking.
At 3.52 pm, the PM’s personal twitter account said, ‘Will soon share some good news with all of you,’ but gave no indication about the imminent news. Twenty minutes later, he tweeted, “Delighted at securing the release of Indian Jesuit priest Father Alexis Prem Kumar from captivity in Afghanistan.” He added that he had spoken to the “happy family” of Alexis Prem Kumar on his “safe return after 8 months in captivity”. Modi called up the family members of Alexis Prem Kumar in Tamil Nadu, following which they immediately made plans to leave for Delhi. At the Chennai airport en route to Delhi, his sister said, “Being religious, I felt that there is God’s protection. My brother has done so much for the people and so God brought him back.” Alexis Prem Kumar also thanked his “own family and the society of Jesus”. “My students and staff in Afghanistan too prayed for me,” he said.
However, no further details were available about how Alexis Prem Kumar was released.
Significantly, official statements said he had been “released”, as opposed to a rescue effort. There was also no identification of the kidnappers.
It was earlier speculated that the kidnappers were members of terrorist group Taliban after three of them were arrested by police in Afghanistan a few days after the abduction.
Modi talks to dad for 10 minutes
Madurai: Family members of father Alexis Prem Kumar, who underwent intense mental turmoil for eight months after they received news of his abduction in Afghanistan, on Sunday said their continuous prayers resulted in his safe return. “I became speechless when Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to me for about 10 minutes over phone and informed me that my son has been released and will reach Delhi around 6 pm,” said Antony, father of Alexis Prem Kumar. — by Gokul Vannan