An Indian priest, Father Tom Uzhunnalil, kidnapped after gunmen attacked a care home for the elderly in Yemen's southern port city of Aden in March 2016 has been freed and flown to Oman, the government of Oman announced today.
The Sultanate of Oman said in a statement that it had helped to find and rescue the kidnapped priest, whom it called a Vatican employee, according to The Times of Oman. The newspaper carried the official announcement that the government had posted online, as well as a photo of the long white-bearded priest getting off a plane.
“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 government said in the statement.
It added that, “Tom Uzhunnalil expressed his thanks to God Almighty and to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, 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.”
Father Uzhunnalil, an Indian national and a member of the Salesian Order, was abducted in March 2016 when four gunmen, posing as relatives of one of the residents, burst into a retirement home for the elderly run the Missionaries of Charity order founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The attackers killed 16 persons including four Indian sisters of that religious order, and eight elderly residents of the home.
While no group ever claimed responsibility for the attack, various sources suggest the gunmen could have been linked to either the Islamic State or Al-Qaeda, both of which were known to be operating in the area at the time. The identity of the attackers may become clear now that Father Uzhunnalil is free.
Pope Francis was immediately informed of the priest’s release and gave thanks to God for this good news.