An Indian priest kidnapped by gunmen in Yemen last year has been freed, Oman’s state news agency ONA said on Tuesday, posting a picture of him appearing in good health after being transferred to the Omani capital Muscat.
Father Tom Uzhunnalil was abducted in March 2016 when four unidentified gunmen attacked a care home in Yemen’s southern port city of Aden, killing four Indian nuns, two Yemeni female staff members, eight elderly residents and a guard.
ONA said Omani authorities had coordinated with “Yemeni parties” to locate Uzhunnalil and transfer him to the sultanate. He will return home to India, it said, without mentioning which group had been holding him in Yemen.
“I am happy to inform that Father Tom Uzhunnalil has been rescued,” Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj wrote on Twitter.
A reporter for Asianet News posted this on Twitter:
Father Tom Uzhunnalil is now free.
He is now at Oman.
He is weak, says embassy people.
Big relief. pic.twitter.com/PwD2TBdIXp
— Savithri Thekkumpat (@ammusavithri) September 12, 2017
Oman has frequently helped facilitate the release of foreign nationals detained in Yemen.
The government of Oman released this statement:
In compliance with the His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, Oman in coordination with the Yemeni parties have managed find a Vatican priest. He has been transferred to Muscat from where he will return to his home in Kerala.
Tom Uzhunnalil, a Vatican priest, expressed thanks to God Almighty and appreciation to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos. He also thanked his brothers and sisters and all relatives and friends who called on God for safety and release. ONA
Uzhunnalil was kidnapped from a care home in Yemen’s southern port city of Aden last year has again appealed for help in a video recording carried by a Yemeni news website. Tom Uzhunnalil was abducted in March 2016 when four gunmen posing as relatives of one of the residents at the home burst inside, killing four nuns, two Yemeni female staff members, eight elderly residents and a guard. He hailed from the Kottayam in the Indian state of Kerala
Fr. Tom is a member of the Salesian order, and I know they are offering prayers of gratitude that their brother, at least, is free. Thank God. Reports indicate that there are still concerns about his health. Stay tuned.