Indian Foreign Minister: Fr. Tom is well. Msgr. Hinder: Caution

Family members of the Salesian priest kidnapped in Yemen have met the Foreign Minister, who assured them. The Delhi government “is doing everything possible to secure his release”. Vicar of Arabia: "So far no one has ever had direct contact with him”.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - Fr Tom Uzhunnalil, the Salesian priest kidnapped in Yemen five months ago, "is well and the Indian government is doing everything possible to secure his release”, said Indian Foreign Minister, Sushma Swaraj, during a meeting last night with a priest's family. For his part, Msgr. Paul Hinder, Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia, invites people to caution because "we have no reliable information. We only know that something is happening, but we have no certainty".

The minister met with the families of Fr. Tom following the news of the capture of three men near Aden. They would be part of the extremist commandos who captured the priest, but have not disclosed information on the place of his detention or condition.

Since 4 March, Fr Tom Uzhunnalil has been in the hands of a jihadist group – in all likelihood linked to the Islamic State (IS) group – that massacred four sisters of Mother Teresa and 12 other people in Aden, in southern Yemen. So far, nothing is known of the fate of the 56-year-old priest born in Ramapuram, near Pala (Kottayam, Kerala) into a deeply Catholic family. His uncle Matthew, who died last year, was also a Salesian, and the founder of the mission in Yemen.

Msgr. Hinder emphasizes that "no one has ever had direct contact with Fr. Tom. We do not have any proof that he really is ok".

Over the months there have been various unfounded rumors of a plan drawn up by the kidnappers that included torture, murder and the crucifixion of the priest on March 25, to coincide with Good Friday. In late July, a video was circulated showing the kidnapped priest being abused and in poor physical condition. The foreign minister told his family that experts are still checking the authenticity of the images.