Abducted Indian woman aid worker's whereabouts still unknown

Kabul/Kolkata: Afghanistan and India on Saturday continued their efforts to secure the release of an abducted Indian woman aid worker but her whereabouts remain unknown. Judith D'Souza, 40, working with Aga Khan Foundation, an NGO, was kidnapped on Thursday night while she was returning home after a dinner at a friend's place in the Qala-e-Fatullah area of Kabul. No group has claimed responsibility for the abduction but it is feared that she may have been kidnapped by a criminal gang in Kabul motivated by ransom, according to Afghan officials.  Abductions for ransom in Afghanistan are common and criminal gangs have made millions of dollars from kidnapping foreign nationals. Such crimes by criminal cartels raise fears that hostages may be sold to Islamists who complicate their freedom by raising demands for ransom as well as for securing the release of jailed terrorists. But the Indian authorities are not ruling out the kidnapping of the Indian aid worker by the Taliban or its allied fighters.  They said there was no fresh update about D'Souza but efforts were on to secure her release. Her worried family in Kolkata said they have been in touch with the authorities in India and Afghanistan. "As of now efforts are being made at various levels within the governments of India and Afghanistan," her brother Jerome D'Souza tweeted. Afghan media reports said the government had left all channels of communication open to hear from suspected kidnappers but did not provide details. "Afghan officials have said they are doing everything possible to secure the early release of the woman," TOLO News reported. Sympathizers and well-wishers have appealed to the governments of both countries on social media networking pages for Judith's swift and safe release with #bringbackjudith. An online petition was also launched at change.org for the release of the "Indian development worker... who went (to Afghanistan) to serve humanity. "Abducting such people is not only inhumane but also anti-Islamic. We, on behalf of development workers, appeal to the abductors to realise the agony and trauma of her parents and family and set Judith free unharmed at the earliest," said the petition, garnering hundreds of signatures till late Saturday. "We also request the local community and authority in Afghanistan and government of India to make all-out efforts to rescue Judith unharmed from the clutches of the abductors." Judith D'Souza, an expert on gender issues, has been working for the Aga Khan Foundation since last year and was due to return home in Kolkata soon.