November 23, 2005

PM condemns killing of Indian by Taliban

NDTV Correspondent

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005 (New Delhi):

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has condemned the murder of Maniappan Raman Kutty, a Border Roads Organisation (BRO) driver posted in Afghanistan.

On Wednesday, five days after his abduction by the Taliban, Kutty's decapitated body was found dumped by the roadside in Delaram, a district in southern Afghanistan's Nimroze Province.

The Prime Minister described the killing as "cowardly" and "brutal," saying that Kutty had "given his life as a soldier for peace."

He described the slain driver as "a brave Indian who was working in the cause of peace and development far from his home and country," and said the murder reflected "the cruel and inhuman character of the Taliban and the forces they represent."

The PM also expressed his condolences to Kutty's bereaved family, and assured them of government help with livelihood and security.

Compensation for the family

In the aftermath of Kutty's murder, the government has announced compensation of Rs 10 lakh for his family, and free education up to the secondary level for his two children.

In Kerala, Maniappan's wife Bindu and his aged parents are said to be in a state of shock. They had been expecting Maniappan back home for a visit, but on November 8 he was posted to Afghanistan instead. He had last seen his family eight months ago.

The BRO driver was the only son of his parents and the sole breadwinner of the family.

His uncle, Maniyan, said that Maniappan's 70-year-old father Ramankutty and 60-year-old mother Maniamma were shattered by the news.

"It is a very shocking incident. The parents are not able to come to terms with the news. The entire village is in grief," he said.

He added that they were waiting for the government to fly the body back to Chingoli village in Allapuzha district.

"They are now expecting the government to do everything possible to bring back the body from Afghanistan to the village."

Body to be brought back

In Afghanistan, Indian Ambassador Rakesh Sood has said efforts are underway to have Kutty's body brought home as soon as possible.

The body is likely be taken by road to the nearest airstrip in Nimroze Province, and then airlifted to Kabul in a chopper tomorrow, before being flown to Delhi on Thursday's Indian Airlines flight.

It will then be taken to Kerala for the last rites.

Afghan support

Meanwhile, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has called Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to convey his condolences over Kutty's death.

Condemning the killing, President Karzai assured the Prime Minister that the security of all Indians working in Afghanistan would be strengthened.

In response, Singh is understood to have told Karzai that the incident would not come in the way of normal and friendly relations with Afghanistan.

After taking Kutty hostage on Saturday, the Taliban had reportedly demanded that the BRO cease all operations in Afghanistan or face Kutty's killing within 48 hours.

But the Indian government has said that despite the "outrageous" and "barbaric" killing of the BRO driver, India will not abandon its construction projects in Afghanistan.

Defence ministry sources have said that BRO Director-General Lt Gen K S Rao may go to Afghanistan to review security arrangements for the Zaranj-Delaram road project that Kutty was working on.

Maniappan Kutty was with the BRO for 12 years, but had only been in Afghanistan for a little over two weeks.

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