Judith D’Souza rescued in Afghanistan, to return home shortly

Indian aid worker Judith D’Souza has been rescued more than a month after she was kidnapped in Kabul on June 9th.

Ms. D'Souza will arrive in Delhi in the evening of July 23, accompanied by India's Ambassador to Afghanistan, Manpreet Vohra.

Announcing the news, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said “I am happy to inform you that Judith D'souza has been rescued,” on her twitter account early on Saturday morning. Sources say Ms. D’ Souza, who is “safely” with Indian embassy officials in Kabul will return to India “very soon”.

Judith D’Souza had been working with the Aga Khan Foundation in Kabul for some years and was due to return to India in a week when she was abducted on the night of June 9. According to the police’s account, Ms. D’Souza had been visiting a friend and was in her car with a driver and security guard, when they were overtaken by gunmen and forced into another car at gunpoint.

However, they let off the two men as they were Afghan, asking Ms. D Souza if she was a “foreigner”, said police. The manner of her abduction made the police suspicious, however, and they kept both the driver and guard in custody. While officials wouldn’t reveal any details during the investigation, sources confirmed that interrogating the two men had given them significant leads that indicated the motive for her kidnapping was ransom, and that she hadn’t, as feared by many, been targeted by the Taliban. Ms D’Souza was believed to be held by a gang in the Shomali Plains, close to the village of the two men in custody.

Speaking to The Hindu Jerome D'Souza, Ms. D'Souza's brother, said that he was grateful to the Government of India and particularly to the tireless efforts of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. Mr. D'Souza is in Delhi and is in touch with MEA.

The D' Souza family in Kolkata — father Denzel D'Souza and mother Lawrence D’Souza along with sister Agnes D Souza — are delighted on hearing the news of rescue of Judith. "We are grateful to Indian Government for bringing back my sister," Agnes said.

In an interview to The Hindu this week, Afghanistan Ambassador to India Dr. Shaida Abdali had said he was “optimistic” of her return, saying her captors seems to be “gangsters, not terrorists” and were seeking a ransom before releasing Ms. D’Souza. “It is not just the government, it is the people of Afghanistan who will protect India at any cost, be it their lives, if that may be required for the Indians to be safe and secure in Afghanistan,” he assured.

In the past month, Ms. D’Souza’s family in Kolkata had made many representations to the government, requesting help, and her brother Jerome D’Souza had met Ms. Swaraj as recently as on Friday. “Her assurances on bringing back Judith give us hope that she will be home soon,” Mr. D’Souza had tweeted after the meeting. PM Modi had also spoken to President Ashraf Ghani on the sidelines of the SCO summit on June 23-24th, making a special appeal for efforts to secure her release.

(With inputs from Shiv Sahay Singh in Kolkata)

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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 8:16:35 PM |

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