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‘No ransom was paid to secure release of priest’
By Ashraf Padanna September 14, 2017
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TRIVANDRUM: No ransom was paid for the release of a priest from the suspected Daesh captivity in Yemen, India’s junior foreign minister VK Singh has said.

Fr Tom George alias Tom Uzhunnalil, 57, reached the Omani capital of Muscat on Tuesday on a Royal Air Force flight, after 18 months since his abduction last year. Reports said he was later flown to Vatican.

“No ransom was paid, and the reason why Oman got into the efforts for release is… when direct efforts do not yield results, indirect measures are adopted and what’s important is to solve the problem,” the minister told reporters here.

In December last year, a fatigued priest who hails from Kottayam district of the southern state of Kerala, had made a video appeal for life addressing Indian and Vatican authorities.

He was seen frail and with an overgrown greyed beard in the 306-second video posted on the Christmas day, in which he had said New Delhi and Vatican were not interested in his release.

The Roman Catholic bishop belonged to Salesians’; Bangalore province, which is entrusted with the mission to Yemen. He had said his captors had made several contacts with Indian authorities without success.

The abductors attacked an elderly care home in Aden and killed 16 people, including four nuns, before abducting the priest on March 4, 2016. He had reached the war-ravaged country four years back.

“Release of Father Uzhunnalil underlines one thing that (his ministry) works quietly and without noise, but ultimately gets the work done,” the minister said.

“We are very happy that he has come back safely and I’m sure people will appreciate that we were able to get him out safe and sound. If a direct method failed to yield results, indirect methods are adopted, and the aim is to get the problem solved.”

He said the priest had not contacted any Indian officials after his release and he expected him to “do it after he gets back from the Vatican” and it was for the priest to decide when he would come to India.

“If I were a European priest, I would have been taken more seriously. I’m from India. I’m perhaps not considered of much value,” the priest had said in the video.

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