Oman secures release of Indian priest abducted by IS in Yemen

#IslamicState

Thomas Uzhunnalil has been held captive since March 2016, when militants attacked a care home operated by missionaries in Aden

Thomas Uzhunnalil had been held captive in Yemen since March 2016 (screengrab)
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Last update: 
Tuesday 12 September 2017 11:48 UTC
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Muscat has secured the release of an Indian priest who was abducted last year during a deadly attack by militants in Yemen, Oman's official news agency said on Tuesday. 

Thomas Uzhunnalil has been held captive since March 2016, when militants attacked a care home operated by missionaries in the southern port city of Aden, killing 16 people including four nuns.

Oman's news agency released a picture of Uzhunnalil wearing local traditional dress and with a flowing but tidy white beard grown while in captivity.

He appeared healthy, standing tall before a portrait of the Oman's Sultan Qaboos.

The news release said Omani authorities "coordinated with Yemeni parties" to free Uzhunnalil, described as a "Vatican employee", at the request of the sultan.

The priest, who is in his mid-50s, last appeared in a video circulated online in December 2016, in which he appealed to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pope Francis to secure his freedom.

Yemeni authorities have blamed the Islamic State group for last year's attack. Al-Qaeda, which is also active in the area, distanced itself from the mass shooting, saying that it was not involved.

The Aden-based government in war-torn Yemen is at war with Houthi rebels who control the capital Sanaa and a growing militant presence.

Al-Qaeda and IS have stepped up attacks in Aden, targeting mainly loyalists and members of a Saudi-led coalition battling the Houthis and their allies.

President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi has declared Aden to be Yemen's temporary capital since Sanaa has been in the hands of rebels since September 2014.