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Was not harmed: Kerala priest

Father Tom Uzhunnalil in Rome on Saturday.

Father Tom Uzhunnalil in Rome on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: AFP

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Indian clergyman freed by Yemeni captors say they feigned hitting him on videos

A Catholic priest from India, who was freed after being held for 18 months in Yemen, said on Saturday he was never physically harmed, even if his captors feigned hitting him on videos released during his captivity to get a speedy response in negotiations.

Father Tom Uzhunnalil, who hails from Kerala, was kidnapped from a home for senior citizens in Aden, southern Yemen, established by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in March 2016. Four nuns were killed in the attack.

Father Uzhunnalil’s voice broke as he publicly expressed his condolences.

“I thank God Almighty for this day. He saved me healthy enough. Clear mind. Emotions under control until now,” the 59-year-old Fr. Uzhunnalil said. “God has been extremely kind to me. No gun was pointed at me.”

He said when the home for senior citizens was attacked, he identified himself as an Indian and he was brought to another room “while they killed the others”. Indian officials announced his release on Tuesday and images show a bearded, gaunt Fr. Uzhunnalil descending from an aircraft in Muscat, Oman. The priest said he had been transferred from Yemen by car to Oman, and then brought by air to the capital before continuing his journey to Rome.

The priest said he did not know his kidnappers’ identities or affiliations and believed their motive was ransom, though the head of Uzhunnalil’s Salesian order, Don A.F. Artime, said they had no knowledge of any ransom having been paid.

“No one asked us for even a euro,” Fr. Artime said. “We don’t know anything about this. I believe that Father Tom knows even less.”

Mechanisms unclear

The mechanisms behind his release were also unclear, but the Vatican has thanked the Sultan of Oman in a statement and Uzhunnalil offered his gratitude to Indian leaders.

They provided tablets to treat his diabetes and took care of his basic needs, the priest said.

Artime said the priest lost about 30 kilos during the ordeal, and described his health as “very delicate, very weak,” adding “he is calm of spirit.”

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 8:53:01 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/was-not-harmed-by-yemeni-captors-says-kerala-priest-tom-uzhunnalil/article19700356.ece

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