MUSCAT, Sept 12, (AFP): 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 had been held captive since March 2016, when jihadists attacked a care home operated by missionaries in the southern port city of Aden, killing 16 people including four nuns.
Uzhunnalil was pictured Tuesday wearing local traditional dress and with a flowing but tidy white beard grown while in captivity.
He appeared relatively healthy, standing tall before a portrait of Oman’s Sultan Qaboos. 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 Vatican welcomed his release in a statement, and thanked Oman in particular for bringing him out of Yemen. It said he would spend time in Rome before returning to India. In video footage earlier on Oman TV, Uzhunnalil was seen arriving in Muscat. He disembarked from a Royal Air Force of Oman plane unaided, but struggled as he made his way down the steps to the tarmac.