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Salesians await further news on priest kidnapped in Yemen

Fr Thomas Uzhunnalil

The fate of a kidnapped priest in Yemen is still unknown, his religious order has said.

The Salesians said they had received no further information about Fr Tom Uzhunnalil, a member of the order kidnapped from a home for the aged and disabled run by the Missionaries of Charity in Aden, Yemen, on March 4.

Four Missionaries of Charity and 12 others were murdered in the attack.

Fr Filiberto González Plasencia, the Salesians’ Councillor General for Social Communication, released a statement on Tuesday that said the order had “no further news” on Fr Uzhunnalil, a priest from India.

“We await news, which we hope will be positive, from those who are following the story more closely: the Indian Government, the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia and the Salesian Provincial of Bangalore,” Fr González Plasencia said.

“The Salesian Congregation continues to follow the situation with feelings of solidarity and closeness in prayer.”

On Monday, the bishop who leads the apostolic vicariate that includes Yemen said he had “strong indications” that Fr Tom Uzhunnalil “is still alive in the hands of his kidnappers”.

Bishop Paul Hinder, head of the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia, said: “I have no confirmation that anything happened Good Friday.” Rumours that the priest had been crucified appeared to be untrue, he said.

Speaking from Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, Bishop Hinder said it appeared that a rumour began in India that militants connected to ISIS planned to crucify Fr Uzhunnalil on Good Friday. The rumour spread around the world on social media.

Leaders of the Salesian order in India said there was no evidence to support the reports and asked people to refrain from “spreading false rumours”.