KERALA Catholic priest Tom Uzhunnallil, abducted by terrorists in Aden in March last year, has been rescued from captivity from an undisclosed location in Yemen, thanks to the intervention of the Sultanate of Oman.
The Gulf nation helped to find and rescue Uzhunnalil who is an employee of the Vatican.
“In response to the Royal Orders of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said and as per a request from the Vatican to assist in the rescuing of a Vatican employee, the authorities concerned in the Sultanate, in co-ordination with the Yemeni authorities, have managed to find a Vatican Government employee. He was transferred on Tuesday morning to Muscat in preparation for his return home,” the ‘Times of Oman’ quoted the Oman Government as saying.
According to the report, Uzhunnalil expressed his thanks to God and to Sultan Qaboos, and wished him good health and wellness. “He also thanked his brothers, sisters and all relatives and friends who prayed for his safety and release,” the statement added. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted about the release of the Catholic priest, who was abducted in March last year. “I am happy to inform that Father Tom Uzhunnalil has been rescued,” she said.
According to reports reaching Kerala, after his release, the priest was flown from Yemen to Muscat. He later left Oman on a chartered flight for the Vatican. The media in Oman confirmed the news of the release of the priest and posted a picture of him -- standing in a room with the picture of the Oman King in the background. He will be flown to Kerala later in the day.
Expressing happiness at the news, the priest’s brother Mathew Uzhunnallil said their prayers have been finally answered. A spokesperson of the church Fr C Jimmy told the media that the news has been received with a great sense of happiness. In March 2016, militants barged into a care home for the elderly set up by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Yemen’s Aden and shot dead many people, including four nuns of the charity organisation, among whom one was from India.
After the shooting, the militants took away the Catholic priest. Since then, other than a few videos released from time to time, there has been no news of his whereabouts.
Uzhunnalil’s ancestral home in Ramapuram in Kottayam district is presently shut as two of his brothers live abroad, while another lives in Gujarat.
In May, a video of the Indian priest was posted online in which he was seen to be in poor health and calling for help.