In­dian priest says Ye­meni cap­tors never harmed him phys­i­cally

The Free Press Journal - - WORLD -

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

The Rev 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 dur­ing the at­tack.

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 Uzhun­nalil said. "God has been ex­tremely kind to me. No gun was pointed at me."

Of­fi­cials said they had no knowl­edge of a ran­som hav­ing been paid, re­ports AP.

Uzhun­nalil said that 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 Uzhun­nalil de­scend­ing from an air­plane 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 didn't know his kid­nap­pers' iden­ti­ties or af­fil­i­a­tions and be­lieved their mo­tive was ran­som, although the head of Uzhun­nalil's Sale­sian or­der, Don A F Ar­time, said they had no knowl­edge of any ran­som hav­ing been paid.

"No one ever told us that they asked for money. No one asked us for even a euro," Ar­time said. "We don't know any­thing about this. This is the whole truth. And I be­lieve that Fa­ther Tom knows even less."

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

The priest said that his cap­tors never harmed him, even if in some videos they made it ap­pear that way in an ef­fort to get a speedy re­sponse in ne­go­ti­a­tions. They pro­vided tablets to treat his di­a­betes and took care of his ba­sic needs. He was trans­ferred sev­eral times dur­ing his cap­tiv­ity, but he doesn't know where he was held. His cap­tors kept their faces cov­ered in his pres­ence, he said.

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