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November 17, 2017
Fr. Tom still missing, but bishop hopeful about his release
Fr. Tom Uzhunnalil, who was abducted in Yemen March 4. Credit: ANS Agenzia Info Salesiana.
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.- Two months after being kidnapped in Yemen, Salesian priest Tom Uzhunnalil remains missing, although a bishop involved in his case remains hopeful about his timely release.

“The last words, which are quite reassuring, I received indirectly about ten days ago. I was told that Father Tom is alive, and that his return to freedom could be imminent,” said Bishop Paul Hinder OFM Cap, Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia.

“But since then nothing has happened. We hope and pray for him,” the bishop told Fides New Agency.

Fr. Uzhunnalil, an Indian national, was abducted in April, when four gunmen attacked a Missionaries of Charity-run retirement home in Aden, Yemen, killing 16 people, including four Missionary of Charity sisters. The attacks are thought to have been perpetrated by Islamist terrorists, though no group has claimed responsibility for the incident. Both the Islamic State and al-Qaeda have a presence in the area.

Rumors began spreading during Holy Week that Fr. Tom was to be crucified on Good Friday, although those reports were later retracted. Fr. Uzhunnalil’s Salesian community and the bishop of the local Church dismissed the rumors as false information, warning that spreading such rumors was irresponsible and could be harmful.

Indian security officials are involved in negotiations for his release. The specifics of the ongoing investigation and negotiations have not be revealed so as to protect the life of Fr. Tom.