In­dia: Ef­forts on to free priest in Ye­men

Iraqi fe­male jour­nal­ist kid­napped by gun­men

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

In­dia said yesterday it will “spare no ef­fort” to se­cure the re­lease of a priest kid­napped in Ye­men, af­ter video footage show­ing him plead­ing for help was cir­cu­lated on social media. Indian priest Thomas Uzhun­nalil was ab­ducted dur­ing a deadly at­tack by Is­lamist mil­i­tants on a care home op­er­ated by the Mis­sion­ar­ies of Char­ity group in the south­ern Ye­meni port city of Aden in March. The five-minute video, the prove­nance of which is un­known, shows him ap­peal­ing to Indian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and Pope Fran­cis to se­cure his free­dom.

“My cap­tors have made many con­tacts with the gov­ern­ment of In­dia to get me re­leased. I am very sad that noth­ing has been done se­ri­ously in my re­gard,” Uzhun­nalil said.

In re­sponse, In­dia’s for­eign min­is­ter Sushma Swaraj tweeted that New Deli would “spare no ef­fort to se­cure Fr (fa­ther) Tom’s re­lease from cap­tiv­ity”, but

Gun­men have kid­napped an Iraqi fe­male jour­nal­ist af­ter pos­ing as mem­bers of the se­cu­rity forces and burst­ing into her home in Bagh­dad, au­thor­i­ties said yesterday. Afrah Shawqi Ham­mudi was ab­ducted on Mon­day at around 10:00 pm (1900 GMT) from her home in a south­ern neigh­bor­hood of the cap­i­tal, said Ziad AlAjili, head of the Jour­nal­is­tic Free­doms Ob­ser­va­tory.

“Eight armed men burst into her house in Saidiya dressed in plain clothes and en­tered by pre­tend­ing to be­long to the se­cu­rity forces,” he told AFP. “They tied up her son and stole mo­bile phones, com­put­ers and cash be­fore kid­nap­ping Afrah and flee­ing.” The re­port was con­firmed by a source in Iraq’s in­te­rior min­istry who gave no de­tails. “I have seen the video from Fr Tom. He is an Indian cit­i­zen and the life of ev­ery Indian is most pre­cious for us,” she said.

Joseph Chin­nayyan, the deputy sec­re­tary gen­eral of Catholic Bish­ops’ Con­fer­ence of In­dia, said it was not pos­si­ble to ver­ify the au­then­tic­ity of the video. “Even if it is au­then­tic, what­ever he is say­ing is un­der duress. We are cer­tain that he is still in cap­tiv­ity and ef­forts are on to free him,” Chin­nayyan said.

The video was posted on social media sites Youtube and Face­book on Mon­day but it is not clear when it was shot. In it the 56-year-old priest said his na­tion­al­ity re­mained the main rea­son that world lead­ers re­mained un­sym­pa­thetic. “If I were a Euro­pean priest, I would have been taken more se­ri­ously by au­thor­i­ties and peo­ple would have got me re­leased,” he said. Ye­men is in midst of a civil war and has seen a grow­ing pres­ence of AlQaeda and Is­lamic State mil­i­tants. — AFP spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity. Ham­mudi, 43, is em­ployed by Asharq AlAwsat, a Lon­don-based pan-Arab news­pa­per, as well as a num­ber of news web­sites, in­clud­ing Ak­laam.

On Mon­day she pub­lished a sting­ing ar­ti­cle on the web­site in which she hit out at the armed groups which “act with im­punity” in Iraq. Prime Min­is­ter Haider Al-Abadi con­demned her ab­duc­tion and or­dered the se­cu­rity ser­vices to do their ut­most find her and track down those re­spon­si­ble. Iraq is one of the most dan­ger­ous coun­tries in the world for jour­nal­ists. Seven jour­nal­ists have been killed in the coun­try in 2016, press free­dom group Re­porters With­out Borders (RSF) said last week. — AFP

BAGH­DAD: Iraqi se­cu­rity forces search cars in Bagh­dad’s south­west­ern Say­diyah neigh­bor­hood a day af­ter jour­nal­ist Afrah Shawqi Al-Qaisi was kid­napped. — AP

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