13 September 2017

Abducted Indian priest rescued in Yemen after 18 months

An Indian Catholic priest who was kidnapped by militants from a home for senior citizens in Yemen has been rescued after 18 months, an Indian official said Tuesday.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Twitter that Tom Uzhunnalil had been rescued, saying later Tuesday that he had reached Vatican City. He is expected to meet Pope Francis. Swaraj gave no other details.

Uzhunnalil had worked for more than four years as a chaplain at the home in Aden in southern Yemen established by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.

He was abducted by militants in March 2016 when they attacked the home, killing 16 people, including four nuns. The militants also destroyed the chapel and the center.

There were about 80 residents at the home at the time of the attack. Missionaries of Charity nuns also came under attack in Yemen in 1998, when gunmen killed three nuns in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida.

The Hindustan Times newspaper said the priest was flown from Yemen to Muscat, the capital of Oman, after his release.

“Our prayers were finally heard. We thank all who stood with us in trying times,” the newspaper quoted the priest’s older brother, Mathew, as saying.

Earlier, Oman’s official news agency ONA said Oman, in coordination with Yemeni parties, had managed to find Uzhunnalil and that he had been moved to Muscat, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

Uzhunnalil comes from Ramapuram in the southern Indian state of Kerala.