Father Tom Uzhunnalil, the Catholic priest from Kerala who was kidnapped by the Islamic State group in Yemen in March 2016, has been rescued. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday said on Twitter, “I am happy to inform that Father Tom Uzhunnalil has been rescued.”
Uzhunnalil was freed after Oman’s Foreign Affairs Ministry is said to have intervened. After his release, Uzhunnalil was flown to Muscat in the Sultanate of Oman. He left Oman on a chartered flight either for New Delhi or for the Vatican, reported the Hindustan Times. Indian embassy officials in Oman said the priest had been taken to Rome.
Uzhunnalil had made repeated appeals to the Indian government to rescue him, first in December 2016, but more recently in April 2017,when he alleged “poor response” from Indian authorities. In a video clip aired by television channel Aden Times, the 58-year-old had said his health was deteriorating rapidly.
“They [the kidnappers] contacted our Indian government authorities several times, and I have seen the message of their response. It was very, very poor,” the priest claimed, adding that his abductors had been treating him well.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said he was happy to learn of Uzhunnalil’s release. Kerala Congress leader KM Mani also called it “good news”.
Uzhunnalil was abducted on March 4, 2016, during a raid on a nursing home in Yemen. At least 16 people were killed in the incident, including an Indian nun.