In yet another successful mediation, the Sultanate has secured the release of a priest from his captors in Yemen.
Fr Tom Uzhunnalil was abducted in March 2016, reportedly by four gunmen who killed four Indian nuns, two Yemeni female staff members, eight elderly residents and a guard at the residence of Missionaries of Charity in the southern port city of Aden, Yemen.
According to Oman News Agency, the Omani authorities, in coordination with ‘Yemeni parties’, traced Fr Tom and secured his release and transfer to Muscat.
“In response to the Royal orders of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos and as per a request from the Vatican government, the authorities concerned in the Sultanate, in coordination with the Yemeni authorities, has managed to find a Vatican government employee. He was transferred this morning to Muscat in preparation for his return home,” said a statement from the government.
Fr Tom, a Catholic priest from the south Indian state of Kerala, was involved in charity services at a care home for the elderly in Aden.
Since then, his kidnappers, who have not been identified, released two videos of him pleading for his life, leading to speculation they were mercenaries looking for ransom.
Fr Tom expressed his thanks to the Almighty. He also extended his thanks and appreciation to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, praying to Allah to grant him good health and well-being.
He also thanked all his brothers, sisters, relatives and friends who prayed for his safety and release.
India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who said recently that the Indian government was engaged in negotiating for his freedom, tweeted on Tuesday that the priest had been released. “I am happy to inform that Fr Tom Uzhunnalil has been rescued,” she said.
Bishop Paul Hinder, who is Apostolic Vicariate of the Catholic Church in the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Oman, while thanking all those involved in the release efforts, said: “Fr Tom is now in safe hands.” Fr Thomas Moothanteth, Vicar of Malankara Catholic Church in Oman, said: “We are happy that Fr Tom has been released. Thanks to the Almighty and His Majesty the Sultan and his government.”
GRATEFUL TO SULTANATE: “My phone kept ringing since morning. We saw media persons gathering around our house expecting my brother would come home, which even I was not sure of,” said Mathew.
The family, which was living in a state of anxiety since the incident, got a slight ray of hope when Sister Sally, a nun present at the same care home in Yemen with which Fr Tom was involved, assured the family that the priest was alive.
“The Sister, who visited us some months ago, assured us he (Fr Tom) was safe and would return home as soon as he is released,” said Mathew.
“Today is the day that the Almighty has bestowed us with his release. We have no words to thank the Sultanate and His Majesty the Sultan.”