Swaraj vows all efforts to free priest abducted by ISIS

27 December 2016

Catholic priest Tom Uzhunnalil, who was abducted in Yemen by Islamic State militants, has appealed to Pope Francis and the Indian government to secure his release through a video in which he also says he is being ignored because he is not European.

Responding to Uzhunnalil's request, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj assured help, saying ''the life of every Indian is most precious for us''.

''If I were a European priest, I would have been taken more seriously. I am from India. I am perhaps not considered as of much value,'' says Father Tom Uzhunnalil in a weak voice in the video, aired by news channels in Kerala a day after Christmas.

''Dear Pope Francis, dear Holy Father, as a father please take care of my life. I am very much depressed. My health is deteriorating,'' Uzhunnalil says in the video.

In a series of tweets, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said Indian authorities will spare no effort to secure the release of Uzhunnalil.

''I have seen the video from Father Tom. He is an Indian citizen and the life of every Indian is most precious for us,'' said Swaraj. ''We got Father Alex Prem Kumar and Judith D'Souza released from Afghanistan. We have spared no effort and we will spare no effort to secure Father Tom's release from captivity.''

The ministry of external affairs (MEA) also said India is in regular touch with Saudi Arabian and Yemeni authorities and is undertaking efforts to secure his release. ''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,'' MEA spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.

Father Uzhunnalil, who is from Kerala, was abducted in March by terror group ISIS which attacked an old-age home run by Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity in the southern Yemeni city of Aden.

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