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Aga Khan Foundation Worker Kidnapped in Kabul

  • Ayaz Gul

Danziel D'Souza the father of Judith D'Souza who was abducted in Kabul yesterday reacts as he talks with the media at his residence in Kolkata, India, June 10. 2016.

Danziel D'Souza the father of Judith D'Souza who was abducted in Kabul yesterday reacts as he talks with the media at his residence in Kolkata, India, June 10. 2016.

Authorities in Afghanistan are searching for a woman aid worker from the Aga Khan Foundation who has been kidnapped in Kabul.

No group has publicly claimed responsibility for abducting Judith D'Souza, an Indian national who has been working in Afghanistan for the Aga Khan's development network since last year. She has not been seen since late Thursday, and an Indian government official in Kabul told a reporter she apparently was seized near her home in the Adfghan capital's Qalai Fatullah area.

A spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, Sediq Seddiqi, confirmed to VOA Friday that the woman was kidnapped. Government officials in India said they are cooperating with Afghan authorities in their effort to gain the 40-year-old veteran aid worker's freedom.

In Kolkata, D'Souza's parents and sister said they learned of the kidnapping early Friday from Indian government officials. The New Delhi newspaper Hindustan Times said three people were kidnapped: D'Souza, her driver and a security guard.

The missing woman had telephoned her family earlier this week, telling them she intended to travel to Kolkata next week for a holiday. "She never said that life was at risk," Judith's sister, Agnes D'Souza, told the newspaper.

"We will spare no efforts to rescue her," Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said in a note on Twitter Friday directed at the D'Souza family. "We are doing everything to rescue her. She is your sister and India's daughter. We are doing everything to rescue her."

The Aga Khan Foundation and its associated Aga Khan Development Network have have channeled up to $750 million into Afghan reconstruction programs, particularly in rural development, health, education, sanitation and cultural restoration. The organization confirmed the kidnapping without identifying D'Souza by name and said it is making every possible effort to resolve the incident, but gave no other details.

The founder of the development foundation, the Aga Khan, is the hereditary imam of the world's Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.

Abductions, hostage-taking and summary executions carried out by both militants and criminal networks in Afghanistan have become a major worry for the authorities, and aid workers have increasingly been targets.

During this month alone, Taliban insurgents have carried out at least three mass kidnappings in northern Afghanistan.

An Australian woman working in Afghanistan, Katherine Jane Wilson, was kidnapped on April 28 in Jalalabad, near the border with Pakistan. Wilson, about 60 years old, ran a group called Zardozi that promotes the work of Afghan women artisans.

In April 2015, five Afghan workers for the Save the Children group were shot to death in strife-torn Uruzgan province.

The United States warned American citizens in Afghanistan last month of a "very high" risk of kidnapping, following a close call in Kabul in which one American narrowly escaped being abducted.

Logar Province, Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan

Logar Province, Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan

Meanwhile, authorities in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province, which borders Pakistan, said a powerful bomb explosion during a mosque prayer service Friday killed at least four people and wounded dozens more.

A provincial government spokesman, Attaullah Khogyani, told VOA the prayer leader at the Rodat district mosque was among the dead, and that the casualty toll was expected to rise. There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the bombing; militants from the Islamic State group and Taliban fugitives from Pakistan both have bases in the area.

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