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updated: 6/5/2014 10:19 AM

Afghans say 3 Taliban arrested in Jesuit kidnap

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Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghan security forces have arrested three Taliban members involved in the kidnapping of an Indian Jesuit priest working in western Herat province, a government official said Thursday.

The men were being questioned about the hideouts used by the group that abducted the 47-year-old priest and aid worker on Monday, said Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi.

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Father Alexis Prem Kumar, who is from Tamil Nadu state in southern India, was abducted from a school for refugees that he was visiting in the village of Sohadat, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the provincial capital city, Herat.

"The police in Herat are doing their best to ensure the safe release of this person," Sediqqi told reporters. A search operation was ongoing, he said, but declined to provide further details.

In India, several powerful regional politicians have appealed to the Indian prime minister to press Afghan leaders to secure the priest's release.

Kumar's abduction came nearly two weeks after a thwarted attack on the Indian consulate in Herat by four armed gunmen, who were killed by security guards.

"We are all in the dark about my brother who has been kidnapped in Afghanistan. Please give us some good news about him and his safety," Kumar's brother, Albert Manoharan, told reporters at the family home in Tamil Nadu.

"We spoke to him after the Indian consulate in Herat was attacked," Manoharan said. "My brother said he is safe and there are no threats for him."

Normally quiet Herat has seen increased violence over the past year as the Taliban and other insurgents step up a campaign of violence ahead of the pullout of foreign combat troops at the end of the year. Insurgents also staged a large scale attack on the U.S. consulate in last September, killing two guards.

Kumar is country director in Afghanistan for Jesuit Refugee Services, an educational charity working with displaced and impoverished communities in Afghanistan. He has been working in Afghanistan since 2011.

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