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Indian woman NGO worker abducted in Kabul, Government assures help

NGO worker

Kabul/Kolkata/New Delhi:An Indian woman, working with an international aid agency in Afghanistan, has been abducted from the volatile Kabul, her family and officials said on Friday.

Armed suspected Islamists seized Judith D’Souza, 40, who works for the Aga Khan Foundation as a senior technical advisor on gender issues in the Afghan capital, around Thursday midnight. It was not known who is responsible for the kidnapping or whether a ransom was sought for her release.

Her family told reporters in her home city of Kolkata that they learnt about the abduction from the Indian embassy in Kabul early on Friday morning.

The family urged the Afghan and Indian governments to act fast so as to rescue Judith D’Souza, who was set to return home next week.

“It happened in a different country. The government of that country should take steps. She liked the place as she said there was a lot of work to be done,” her sister Agnes said.

“The government of India must do something and get my sister back. I want her back,” she added.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj responded and said: “We will spare no efforts to rescue her.”

“She is your sister and India’s daughter. We are doing everything to rescue her,” the minister tweeted.

Officials in New Delhi said that the Indian embassy in Kabul was in touch with the Afghan authorities who were making all efforts to secure her release.

The Aga Khan Foundation, which is a part of the Aga Khan Development Network, told IANS that an unnamed “staff member” was abducted.

But the aid agency, which works in health, education and rural development sectors and has pumped nearly $750 million into Afghanistan’s reconstruction, didn’t provide more details.

“An investigation by the authorities has been launched, in conjunction with security officials and various partners. Every effort is being made to secure the safe release of the staff member,” Aga Khan Foundation spokesperson Sam Pickens said in an email response to IANS.

At Judith’s home in central Kolkata, her parents were distraught.

Asked about Taliban involvement in the crime, her sister Agnes said: “I don’t know.”

She said Judith never spoke about any danger to her. “She has been abroad before, but this is the first time this has happened.”

Her father Denzile described Judith as “very brave”.

“We were concerned about her safety in Afghanistan but she said she was quite safe. She told us there was plenty of security,” he said.
Judith was home two-and-a-half-months ago.

The abduction brought back chilling memories of many Indians abducted, a few of them murdered later, in Afghanistan where kidnappings is a huge problem for international aid agencies.

At least two abducted Indians have been killed in the Taliban captivity while four others were released in the last 13 years in Afghanistan. These include two construction workers who were kidnapped and released in December 2003.

Father Alexis Prem Kumar, an Indian Roman Catholic priest, was kidnapped in Heart in June 2014. He was later released in February last year.

An Indian best-selling author, Sushmita Banerjee who married an Afghan businessman, was shot dead by suspected Taliban gunmen in Sharan city in Afghanistan in 2013. In 1998, she wrote the bestselling memoir “Kabuliwalar Bangali Bou” (A Kabuliwala`s Bengali Wife), offering a vivid description of the suffering of women under the Taliban.

IANS

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