The conflict raging in Yemen has found an echo in India, with fears growing over the alleged abduction of an Indian priest by the Islamic State. Reports are now suggesting that he may be crucified on Good Friday on 25 March. The incident has put the spotlight back on the country, which has been seeing large-scale violence and civilian strife for a year and a half.
Here are the key facts relating to the case:
- The priest, Father Tom Uzhunnalil was said to have been abducted after militants stormed an old age home on 4 March. The old age home is in Aden in Yemen. The gunmen killed 16 people, including four nuns, in the shootout, UK-based newspaper Daily Mirror reported. Earlier, this month, Missionaries of Charity spokeswoman Sunita Kumar said in Kolkata that Father Tom Uzhunnalil was handcuffed and taken away by the attackers when they stormed the retirement home in Aden.
- In a Sunday message at Vatican City, Pope Francis called the nuns who were killed as “today’s martyrs” and rued that there appeared to be global indifference towards the incident. “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.
- Church officials from Bengaluru, however, have dismissed reports of his torture as rumours and said that they have “absolutely no information on the priest”, as per the report on the website UCA News. The officials have said that the church is in constant touch with the government and that the foreign ministry is said to have stepped up efforts to locate Father Uzhunnalil.
- On 6 March, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted-
Yemen is a conflict zone.We do not have Embassy there.But we will spare no efforts to rescue Father Tom Uzhunnalil. https://t.co/9fsteD712b
— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) March 6, 2016
Yemen has been gripped by violence since September 2014, when Iran-backed Huthi rebels stormed the capital Sana’a and forced the internationally recognised government to flee south to the city of Aden.
More than 6,300 people have been killed in Yemen since a Saudi-led coalition began an air war in March last year to push back an offensive by the Huthi rebels, who control Sana’a.
Previous UN-sponsored negotiations between the Shiite rebels and government officials failed to reach a breakthrough, while a ceasefire went into force on 15 December, but it was repeatedly violated and the Saudi-led coalition announced an end to the truce on 2 January.