Indian state of Kerala rejoices release of Catholic priest Tom Uzhunnalil held in Yemen

(Photo: Fr. ANS Agenzia Info Salesiana)Father Tom Uzhunnalil.

The chief minister of the Indian state of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan has expressed joy over the release of Father Tom Uzhunnalil, a Catholic priest abducted in war-torn Yemen last year.

"The intervention of Oman had paved the way for his release, I understand," Vijayan said in a Facebook post.

The priest, who is "very weak", is undergoing treatment in Oman, Press Trust of India reported.

The news was officially announced by Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj in a Sept. 12 tweet that read: "I am happy to inform that Father Tom Uzhunnalil has been rescued," Catholic News Agency reported.

Fr. Tom, a Salesian missionary, first garnered the world's attention when he was kidnapped March 4, 2016, during an attack on a Missionaries of Charity home in Aden, Yemen, that left 16 people dead, including four Sisters.

Uzhunnalil was abducted by Islamic State after the terror group attacked a care home run by Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity, said PTI.

He hails from Bharananganam in Pala in Kottayam.

Kummanam Rajasekharan, president of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Kerala said the release was the result of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj's "earnest efforts."

The State-run Oman News Agency, Father Tom's release was secured by Oman, and he has already arrived in the Omani capital of Muscat.

In a statement from Oman News Agency, which was published in the Oman Observer, the priest had "expressed thanks to God Almighty" following his release.

"In compliance with the His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, Oman in coordination with the Yemeni parties have managed find a Vatican priest," the statement read.

A statement from the Holy See said Uzhunnalil "will remain for a few days in a Salesian community in Rome before going home to India."

In addition to offering thanks to God, the priest also voiced gratitude to Sultan Qabbos as well as "his brothers and sisters and all relatives and friends who called on God for safety and release."

Pope Francis was among those who advocated on behalf of Uzhunnalil, calling for the priest's release April 10, 2016, in an address in St. Peter's Square.

"I renew my appeal for the freeing of all kidnapped persons in armed conflict zones," the Pope said. "In particular, I wish to remember Salesian priest Tom Uzhunnalil, who was abducted in Aden, Yemen last March 4."

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