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I’m not of value because I’m Indian: Priest abducted by Islamic State seeks help

Father Thomas Uzhunnalil, a priest abducted the Islamic State in Yemen by in March, has made an emotional plea to the Indian government to save his life.

world Updated: Dec 26, 2016 20:21 IST
Rezaul H Laskar
Rezaul H Laskar
Hindustan Times
Father Thomas Uzhunnalil,Kerala,Islamic State
Image grab from video featuring Father Thomas Uzhunnalil, who was abducted from an old people’s home in Yemen by the Islamic State in March.(YouTube)

Father Thomas Uzhunnalil, a Catholic priest abducted from an old people’s home in Yemen by the Islamic State in March, has made an emotional plea to the Indian government and the church to save his life.

Uzhunnalil, 55, made the appeal in a five-minute video that was posted on YouTube and aired by news channels in his home state of Kerala on Monday. He looked haggard, with a long white beard, and spoke haltingly in English.

The priest, abducted when IS fighters stormed the old people’s home in the port city of Aden on March 4 and gunned down 16 people, including an Indian nun, accused the Indian government and the Pope of doing little for his release.

“If I were a European priest, I would have been taken more seriously by authorities and people and (they) would have got me released. I am from India and therefore, I perhaps am not considered as of much value. I am sad about this,” he said in a weak voice.

Watch | Latest video featuring Father Thomas Uzhunnalil

Uzhunnalil said a French woman reportedly kidnapped in the Yemeni city of Sanaa had been freed because she was a Westerner.

“Dear Pope Francis, dear holy father, as a father please take care of my life…I am very much depressed. My health is deteriorating, I may need hospitalisation soon, please come to my help quickly” he said in the video that was apparently released on Christmas Day.

The veracity of the video, also uploaded on Facebook, could not be independently verified. This is the second video featuring Uzhunnalil to be posted on social media, and the first one had emerged in July.

Uzhunnalil is seen wearing a grey sweat shirt and spoke slowly, repeating his accusations about the government and the church doing little for his release. He said he was kidnapped “because he was working for the Christian religion”. He also said his captors had made several contacts with the Indian government.

Addressing the prime minister and president, he said: “I am very sad that nothing has been done seriously in my regard.”

Though there were news reports of “everything being done to get me released quickly, but in reality nothing seemed to have happened”, he added.

Uzhunnalil belongs to Ramapuram village in Kerala’s Kottayam district.

India said it was in regular touch with Yemeni authorities and Saudi Arabia regarding the safe release of Father Uzhunnalil

“You are aware of the circumstances currently prevailing in Yemen where fighting is going on with no central authority in that country. With regard to the safe release of Father Tom who was abducted some months ago, we have been in regular touch with countries in the region, especially Saudi Arabia as also the local Yemeni authorities. Efforts continue in this regard,” said external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.

Parliament that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had spoken to leaders of several countries through which contacts could be established in Yemen.

Read | Over 40 Indians abducted by IS, kin living on Centre’s assurances

First Published: Dec 26, 2016 17:56 IST