Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj assured a delegation of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India on Saturday that Salesian priest Father Tom Uzhunnalil, who was reportedly kidnapped by the Islamic State in Yemen last month, was safe. The “wild rumors being spread about any harm done” to the priest were “totally baseless”, she said, adding that the government was taking all possible measures to ensure his safe release, The Indian Express reported.
The CBCI had expressed its “deep concern and distress” over Uzhunnalil's fate. The priest's whereabouts have been unknown since his reported abduction on March 4 during a raid on a nursing home run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, in which 16 people were killed.
A statement from the church, which was issued by Deputy Secretary General of the CBCI Monsignor Joseph Chinnayyan, said the minister could not disclose details of and the technicalities involved with the negotiations because it would "endanger the process of the release". On March 26, Swaraj had confirmed Uzhunnalil's abduction and said that India was "making all efforts" to bring him back.
Chinnayyan also said that media reports from last week, which created confusion over the fate of the priest, were untrue, Reuters reported. Some international media reports and social media messages claimed last week that Uzhunnalil had been crucified by the Islamic State on Good Friday.