Indian aid worker kidnapped in Kabul

Dsousa1_2889658fAn Indian aid worker with the Aga Khan Foundation, Judith D’Souza, was kidnapped in the Tamani area of Kabul late on Thursday. Authorities in Afghanistan are yet to hear from any of the terror groups.

Speaking to The Hindu, Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan Manpreet Vohra said police officials were following several leads, but had not been able to identify the group responsible for the kidnapping.

Afghan police reconstructed Ms. D’Souza’s movements based on her driver’s statement. The driver, who was with Ms. D’Souza when she was abducted, said she was on her way home just after 10 p.m. after visiting a friend in Kabul. As they left the friend’s house, the driver noticed a car following them, and tried to speed away. However, the car overtook them and stopped. Three men brandishing guns got out and smashed the windows of Ms. D’Souza’s car. They then dragged her and the driver into their car and sped off. The driver was subsequently thrown out of the car.

Other reports, however, said a security guard was also with Ms. D’Souza during the abduction, and it is not clear if he was also released.

Significantly, Mr. Vohra said it wasn’t clear whether Ms. D’Souza had been targeted for being an Indian or for working at the NGO. “The men allegedly asked the driver if the lady was from Afghanistan or a foreigner. On finding that she was a foreigner and the driver was Afghan, they perhaps let him go,” Mr. Vohra said over the telephone from Kabul.

Assuring the family of the kidnapped aid worker, Judith D’souza, that the Indian government was in touch with the Afghan authorities to secure her release, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said: “We will spare no efforts to rescue her.”

“We are in constant touch with the Afghan government and they have assured us they will do everything possible for her safe return,” India’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Manpreet Vohra said.

While no group has claimed responsibility for the abduction, the Afghan police said it could be more than a few days before the group responsible makes contact with the government as the militants prefer to reach a secure location before contacting the authorities.

A source at the Aga Khan Foundation where Ms D’Souza worked, told The Hindu that she is a full-time employee. Ms. D’Souza’s social network account mentions that she has extensive experience of working in development issues and was posted in Aga Khan Foundation’s office in Kabul to oversee gender-related projects.

A source in the organisation told The Hindu that staff members had been asked to stay away from the media in view of the ongoing investigation by the Afghan police.

“Every effort is being made to release the staff member. The Aga Khan Foundation is an agency of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), and has a long standing commitment to the people of Afghanistan. It will continue to work with local communities, the government of Afghanistan and those in need to enhance the development of the country,” the organisation said in a statement on Friday. (Courtesy The Hindu)