India: Efforts on to free priest in Yemen
Iraqi female journalist kidnapped by gunmen
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