After spending 18 months in captivity of the ISIS, Father Tom Uzhunnalil, a Vatican priest from Kerala, finally set foot in his home country on Thursday.
He was received by Union Minister of State for tourism Alphons Kannanthanam at the Indira Gandhi International airport in Delhi at 7.40am. He also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
Shortly after landing, Uzhunnalil expressed his relief and happiness at being back in India. “I thank the Almighty for making this day possible. I am grateful to all people who worked in their own ways,” he said, reported news agency ANI.
He is expected to fly down to Bengaluru, where he will spend two days before leaving for Kochi, reported Manorama Online. He will then leave for his hometown of Ramapuram in Kottayam on October 1.
Uzhunnalil was sent to Yemen in 2010 for a five-year term by the Catholic church. He was staying back in the country as the church had asked him to do so until they found a replacement. He was abducted in March 2016 by the Islamic State militants during an attack on an old-age home run by Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity in Aden, Yemen.
He was rescued on September 13, after which he went to Muscat. During his months in captivity, Uzhunnalil made several video appeals to the government of India to facilitate his rescue.
After being released, he said that he was treated decently while in captivity. Saying that he was given the freedom to stay, rest and exercise as he wanted, Uzhunnalil added, “I had sufficient time to sleep. I did my prayers and even carried out the holy mass, when they were not in the room. Though bread and wine were not available, I prayed and God was providing spiritual bread and wine to me.”
Uzhunnalil had also thanked the Indian government for securing his release. "I am thankful to the President (Ram Nath Kovind) and the Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) and all the ministers concerned whoever has (expressed) concern," he had said.
"Thanks to the country leaders and countrymen. May God bless all of them for their response," he added.