Released: Fr Tom Uzhunnalil, kidnapped Indian priest, is free

The kidnapped Indian priest, Father Tom Uzhunnalil, has been freed from captivity and flown to Oman, the country's government and church figures have confirmed.

A picture of Fr Tom released by the Omani authorities.

Fr Tom was kidnapped in March 2016 when his care home in the Yemeni city of Aden came under attack. Four gunmen killed four Indian nuns, two Yemeni staff members, eight elderly residents and a security guard, while posing as relatives of one of the residents.

In May this year, an online video showed the priest in poor health, appealing for help. 'My health condition is deteriorating quickly and I require hospitalisation as early as possible,' he said.

Now the Omani government has reported that it has found and freed Fr Tom.

The Arab sultanate said in a statement: '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.'

India's Foreign Minister today tweeted confirmation of the release. Sushma Swaraj, who had insisted during recent months that the Indian government knew who was holding Fr Tom, tweeted: 'I am happy to inform that Fr Tom Uzhunnalil has been rescued.'

Meanwhile, the Catholic Church in the UAE, Oman and Yemen issued a statement from the local Bishop Paul Hinder saying that he 'is happy to inform that Fr Tom Uzhunnalil SDB, who was abducted during the attack on the Care Home run by the Missionaries of Charity in Aden, Yemen on 4th March 2016 has been released today. He is now is safe hands.

'The Bishop thanks all those who were involved in the release efforts and all those all over the world who prayed unceasingly for the safe release of Fr Tom. More details are awaited and will be released as and when available.'

According to reports, Fr Tom will be flown back to Kerala in India later today.

He was reportedly set free after the intervention of the Oman foreign ministry.

A daily newspaper in the Gulf country, Oman Observer, reported that the priest thanked God as well as his brothers and sisters and all relatives and friends.

Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, told the Catholic news website Crux today: 'God has answered our prayers. We thank the Government of India. The Honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs took personal interest in securing the release of Fr Tom.'

And Sister Mary Prema Pierick, the superior general of the Missionaries of Charity, said she was overwhelmed by the good news.

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