Indian priest held by suspected ISIL militants in Yemen

The priest had been working in Yemen for four years and is from Kerala, according to Indian media.

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Aden // An Indian priest missing after an attack on a care home in Yemen is believed to be held by ISIL.

Yemeni authorities have blamed the extremist group for Friday’s attack on the home for the elderly operated by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in the main southern city Aden.

“According to our information, the extremists who attacked the elderly care home in Aden have kidnapped priest Tom Uzhunnalil, a 56-year-old Indian, who was taken to an unknown location,” a Yemeni security official said on Sunday.

“We are aware that no group has yet claimed the criminal attack ... but information points to the involvement of Daesh,” the source said.

India’s foreign minister Sushma Swaraj confirmed the abduction of the priest.

“Yemen is a conflict zone. We do not have [an] embassy there. But we will spare no efforts to rescue Father Tom Uzhunnalil,” she tweeted on Sunday.

She said officials in neighbouring Djibouti were trying to find out his whereabouts to secure his release.

The priest had been working in Yemen for four years and is from Kerala, according to a report in the Malayala Manorama newspaper based in the south Indian state.

Four nuns working as nurses were among 16 people killed when gunmen stormed the care home on Friday morning. The Vatican missionary news agency Fides identified the nuns as two Rwandans, a Kenyan and an Indian, adding that the mother superior managed to hide and survive while an Indian priest was missing.

The attack sparked widespread condemnation, including from Pope Francis and the government of president Abdrabbu Mansur Hadi, which called it an act of terrorism.

Francis called the nuns “today’s martyrs” because they were both victims of their killers and of global indifference.

“They do not make the front pages of the newspapers, they do not make the news. They have given their blood for the Church,” he said in his Sunday message to thousands of people in St Peter’s Square.

“They are victims of the attack by those who killed them but also victims of indifference, of this globalisation of indifference. They don’t matter,” he added, departing from his prepared text.

Al Qaeda and ISIL have stepped up attacks in Aden, targeting mainly forces loyal to Mr Hadi and members of a Saudi-led coalition who have been battling Houthi rebels and their allies since March last year. Al Qaeda has said it was not responsible for Friday’s attack.

Mr Hadi declared Aden, which was recaptured from the rebels in July, to be Yemen’s temporary capital as Sanaa has been in the hands of rebels since September 2014.

* Agence France-Presse and Reuters

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