Wolfgang Heinrich, a German church aid official who was kidnapped last week in the Indian state of Manipur, is alive and being taken care of by his captors, say local church workers.

Heinrich, a staff member of the German Protestant Church Development Service (EED), was kidnapped on March 23 during a visit to Manipur to review the work of a group being funded by his agency.

"Danger to his life is very remote. He is safe and sound and is looked after well," said Paul Lakho, regional director of the New Delhi-based Indo-German Social Service Society.

But the abductors had threatened Heinrich's life if the police or army made any moves to rescue him, Lakho said, citing "reliable information" from aid groups in Manipur.

The Kuki Liberation Army (KLA) confirmed on March 29 it had kidnapped the German church worker - but for "interrogation and not for ransom." The KLA, an insurgent group fighting for an independent homeland for ethnic Kuki hill people in Manipur, denied it had demanded a ransom of 10 million rupees (U.S. $210,000) to release Heinrich.

The abduction was to protest against EED's alleged failure to give grants to the hill people, according to information Lakho had received.

The German church development agency had been funding projects in a valley region in Manipur, but hill people like the Kukis claimed they had been "neglected" by the agency, said Lakho.

A second report that the German aid worker was alive came from a Jesuit priest, Cedric Prakash, who had been planning to conduct a training course with Heinrich last week for aid workers in Manipur. 

"He is 99 percent safe as far as I know," said Prakash, claiming that Heinrich had spoken to government officials using his kidnappers' two-way radio. 

In a statement published at its headquarters in the German city of Bonn, EED said Heinrich, a staff executive for peace and conflict resolution, had been picked up by an armed group in the Northeastern Indian district of Imphal and taken to an unidentified location. 

EED said it did not wish to make further statements at present about the abduction "so as not to further endanger the safety of our colleague."

Related Elsewhere

Additional coverage of the kidnapping include:

Kidnapped German will be released next week—AFP (April 2, 2003)
Talks planned on kidnapped German—DPA (March 31, 2003)
Tipnis remanded to five-day custody—The Sangai Express (March 31, 2003)
Indian tribal rebels say kidnapped German safe—Reuters (March 31, 2003)
German not kidnapped for ransom but against NGOs' bias—Press Trust of India (March 29, 2003)
Manipur tense, police looks for abducted German—Press Trust of India (March 27, 2003)
German kidnap ransom stalemate—BBC (March 27, 2003)
Tribal rebels kidnap German in India—ABC News (March 27, 2003)

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