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Indian freed by Taliban after 8 months, PM 'delighted'

 NEW DELHI, Feb 22 (IANS): More than eight months after he was kidnapped, Indian national Father Alexis Premkumar Antonysamy has been released by the Taliban in Afghanistan. Prime Minister Narendra Modi Sunday expressed happiness at the release and spoke to Father Alexis.

 The external affairs ministry said 47-year-old Alexis, who was kidnapped June 2, 2014 from Herat province in western Afghanistan by terrorist elements, has been released.

At the time of his abduction, Alexis was working with the Jesuit Refugee Service, an international NGO, doing work in the educational field in Afghanistan.

The matter of his release was pursued by India, "including at the highest levels by the prime minister", the ministry spokesperson said in a statement.

"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."

"Father Alexis Premkumar is now back in the safety of his homeland and arrangements are being made for him to rejoin his family soon," he said.

Prime Minister Modi tweeted: "Delighted at securing the release of Indian Jesuit priest Father Alexis Prem Kumar from captivity in Afghanistan. Have spoken to Father Alexis Prem Kumar. Informed happy family of Father Alexis Prem Kumar of his safe return after 8 months in captivity."

In June 2014, after the kidnapping, then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa had written to Modi seeking his intervention in securing the release of Alexis, who hails from the state.

Modi had assured that the "government will spare no effort" to ensure the early release of the priest.

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