Father Tom Uzhunnalil, an Indian Christian priest kidnapped by extremists in Yemen, was rescued from the conflict-torn country.
The priest, who was abducted in March, 2016 by Islamic State operatives when they attacked an old-age home run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in the southern Yemeni city of Aden, was freed by the intervention of Oman’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Yemen is in the midst of a violent conflict between Houthi rebels backing former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and forces supporting the present dispensation of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi.
“I am happy to inform that Father Tom Uzhunnalil has been rescued,” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted.
The priest’s rescue from his kidnappers was facilitated after Sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin Said Al Said looked into the matter. Father Uzhunnalil (57), who has been brought to Muscat, will reportedly fly down to his hometown in Kerala later today. Father Uzhunnalil hails from Ramapuram in Kottayam district of Kerala.
India had repeatedly said that it was in regular contact with Yemeni and Saudi authorities regarding the release of the priest. In a video, released soon after his capture, the priest had appealed for help from the Indian government and Pope Francis. In the video, he complained that had he been “a European priest, I would have been taken more seriously by authorities and people and (they) would have got me released. I am from India and therefore, I perhaps am not considered as of much value.”
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who also took up the matter with prime minister Narendra Modi and the ministry of foreign affairs, said he was happy with the release of the priest. “It is learnt that Oman played a crucial role in his release,” said Vijayan.