Kidnapped Indian aid worker freed in Afghanistan

NEW DELHI (AFP) - An Indian priest has been freed in Afghanistan eight months after he was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday.

India has "secured the release" of aid worker Alexis Prem Kumar who was snatched in Afghanistan's western province of Herat last June while visiting a school, Mr Modi said in a series of tweets.

"Delighted at securing the release of Indian Jesuit priest Father Alexis Prem Kumar from captivity in Afghanistan," Mr Modi said.

Mr Modi said he has informed Mr Kumar's family of the priest's "safe return" after being held for eight months, without giving details of the release or whether a ransom had been paid.

Mr Kumar, whose family comes from India's southern state of Tamil Nadu, had been working in Afghanistan for some four years before his abduction from the school in Sohadat village.

He was working in the strife-torn neighbouring country as director of international educational charity Jesuit Refugee Service.

India's foreign ministry said Mr Kumar "is now back in the safety of his homeland and arrangements are being made for him to rejoin his family soon".

"The matter of his release has been pursued by our leadership, including at the highest levels the Prime Minister," the ministry said in a statement.

The kidnapping last year came soon after an attack on the Indian consulate in Herat in May by four heavily armed gunmen, who were repelled by security forces.

The consulate assault was the latest in a series of attacks on Indian targets in Afghanistan.

Nine civilians, including seven children, were killed in August 2013 when suicide bombers targeted the Indian consulate in the main eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, detonating an explosives-packed car.

India was one of the chief enemies of the hardline Taleban regime which ruled Afghanistan before its ousting in the wake of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington. Pakistan was the Taleban's main ally, and there have been accusations in India that Pakistani security forces were complicit in previous attacks on its missions in Afghanistan.