Indian priest rescued from Yemen, reaches Vatican
New Delhi/Thiruvananthapuram: Father Tom Uzhannalil, the Indian Catholic priest hailing from Kerala and abducted by terrorists in Yemen, reached the Vatican on Tuesday.
“Father Tom Uzhunnalil has reached Vatican,” External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted late Tuesday night.
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, which helped to find and rescue Uzhannalil 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 concerned authorities in the Sultanate, in coordination with the Yemeni authorities, have managed to find a Vatican government employee. He was transferred this morning to Muscat in preparation for his return home,” the Times of Oman quoted the Oman government as saying in a statement.
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.
Sushma Swaraj earlier on Tuesday tweeted about the release of the Catholic priest.
“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 Oman’s monarch in the background.
He will be flown to Kerala later.
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.
“They are treating me well to the extent they are able,” Uzhunnalil said, speaking in English.
“My health condition is deteriorating quickly and I require hospitalisation as early as possible,” he added.