Wolfgang Heinrich, a German church aid worker kidnapped in March in the Indian state of Manipur was released on Wednesday, after 18 days in captivity.

"We are very happy. The strong protests by the people made his release possible," said O. Z. Meitei, a Baptist theologian in Manipur who coordinated a campaign for Heinrich's release. Meitei said Heinrich was released "safe and sound" by his kidnappers in a village 30 kilometers from Manipur's capital, Imphal.

Heinrich, a staff member of the German Protestant Church Development Service (EED), was abducted on March 23 during a visit to Manipur to review the work of a group being funded by his agency. An insurgent group in Manipur called the Kuki Liberation Army (KLA) said in March it had kidnapped the German church worker. The KLA is fighting for an independent homeland for ethnic Kuki hill people in Manipur.

Meitei insisted "no ransom was paid" for Heinrich's freedom. "He was released because of widespread protests."

Various NGOs had formed a joint action committee to campaign for Heinrich's release, noted Meitei, and had staged demonstrations in Manipur and beyond, with numbers ranging from 50 in village areas to thousands in urban areas. The NGOs had also warned that the abduction might halt development activities in the region funded by foreign agencies.

In a statement released from its headquarters in Bonn, Germany the EED said it had received "messages of solidarity that reached us from churches, ecumenical and social institutions as well as development agencies in India, Germany and other parts of the world."

The agency also paid tribute to the efforts of the German foreign ministry and its embassy in New Delhi, and the work of the Indian government and local authorities to ...

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