Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed his pleasure at Catholic priest Father Alexis Premkumar Antonysamy's safe return to India, eight months after he was abducted by the Taliban in Afghanistan. He has also spoken to the priest and his family personally.
In another tweet, he wrote:
Have spoken to Father Alexis Prem Kumar. Informed happy family of Father Alexis Prem Kumar of his safe return after 8 months in captivity.— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 22, 2015
After arriving in New Delhi, Father Premkumar expressed his gratitude towards the Indian government and also the Prime Minister, saying: "This is because of our Prime Minister. He saved me. He talked to me after I landed, and he arranged for my family to come here... I thank the people of Tamil Nadu and the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu as well."
The 47-year-old's family also thanked both the Centre and the Tamil Nadu government for their efforts in securing Premkumar's release. Ahead of the priest's arrival in India, his family told media how PM Modi had personally informed them that Premkumar was alive in Afghanistan and he will return soon.
"My father cannot speak English, so my sister Elizabeth took the call. Mr Modi said that your brother is alive, safe, and is returning to India. Are you happy, he asked, to which my sister said yes,"said Father Premkumar's brother John Joseph, The Indian Express reports.
"He will be back in India, you continue to pray, he (Modi) said. This was the call we have been waiting for every day. So when it actually happened, we could not believe it. I am thankful to God that my brother is safe, and is returning," Joseph added.
Premkumar was working as Afghanistan director of an international NGO, the Jesuit Refugee Service, and was contributing in the field of education for over three years. Taliban kidnapped him on 2 June, 2014 from Zendjan district in Herat province of western Afghanistan while he was visiting a school for Afghan refugee children. he had visited Iran and Pakistan just prior to his abduction.
The External Affairs Ministry spokesperson, Syed Akbaruddin, said efforts from every level was being made for the priest's release.
"The matter of his release has been pursued by our leadership, including at the highest level of the Prime Minister. We express our deep gratitude to all those who worked tirelessly over the last eight months to help in this humanitarian task of ensuring the safe release of one of our citizens," Akbaruddin said.