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BREAKING: Kidnapped Indian priest, Father Tom Uzhunnalil, freed after 18 months

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Regular readers will know we’ve been following this story since last year. Finally, a breakthrough.

From Reuters: 

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:

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Oman has frequently helped facilitate the release of foreign nationals detained in Yemen.

 The ONS picture showed the white-bearded Catholic priest standing in a palatial room in front of a portrait of Oman’s ruler.

Read more. 

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

Background:

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.

Deacon Greg Kandra
Headlines and Homilies
Deacon Greg Kandra is a Roman Catholic deacon in the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York. For nearly three decades, he was a writer and producer for CBS News, where he contributed to a variety of programs and was honored with every major award in broadcasting. Deacon Greg now serves as Multimedia Editor for Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA.) He and his wife live in Forest Hills, New York.
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