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Oman secures release of Indian priest abducted in Yemen

The release of hostage was ‘coordinated with Yemeni parties’

Image Credit: AFP
Father Thomas Uzhunnalil disembarks from a Royal Air Force of Oman plane in Muscat following his release.
Gulf News

Muscat: Muscat has secured the release of an Indian priest who was abducted last year during a deadly attack by Islamist militants in Yemen, Oman’s official news agency said on Tuesday.

Thomas Uzhunnalil has been held captive since March 2016, when terrorists attacked a care home operated by missionaries in the southern port city of Aden, killing 16 people, including four nuns.

Oman’s news agency released a picture of Uzhunnalil wearing local traditional dress and with a flowing but tidy white beard grown while in captivity.

He appeared healthy, standing tall before a portrait of the Oman’s Sultan Qaboos Bin Saeed.

The news release said Omani authorities “coordinated with Yemeni parties” to free Uzhunnalil, described as a “Vatican employee”, at the request of the sultan.

The priest, who is in his mid-50s, last appeared in a video circulated online in December 2016, in which he appealed to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pope Francis to secure his freedom.

Yemeni authorities have blamed Daesh group for last year’s attack. Al Qaida, which is also active in the area, distanced itself from the mass shooting, saying that it was not involved.

The internationally recognised government in war-torn Yemen is grappling with both an Iran-backed rebellion and a growing terrorist presence.

Al Qaida and Daesh have stepped up attacks in Aden, targeting mainly government troops and members of a Saudi-led coalition battling Al Houthi rebels and their allies.

President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi has declared Aden to be Yemen’s temporary capital since Sana’a has been in the hands of rebels since September 2014.