India today said no ransom was paid for the release of Keralite priest Father Tom Uzhunnalil from the captivity of Islamic State militants in Yemen and that "extremely complicated" diplomatic efforts were undertaken to secure his freedom.
The Catholic priest from Kerala was rescued in Yemen yesterday, over 18 months after he was abducted by Islamic State terrorists on March 6, 2016 during a deadly attack on a care home in the port city of Aden in the war-ravaged country. At least 15 people at the old-age home were killed in the attack.
Referring to the release of the priest, Union Minister V K Singh told reporters that the Ministry of External Affairs "works quietly without noise, but ultimately gets the work done."
"Release of Father Uzhunnalil yesterday underlines one thing that the Ministry of External Affairs works quietly and without noise, but ultimately gets the work done," said Singh, the Minister of State for External Affairs.
The minister said "no" when asked at the news conference in Thiruvananthapuram whether any ransom was paid for the release of the priest.
"We know the type of criticism that had come couple of times when Father Uzhunnalil disappeared in Yemen. We are very happy that he has come back safely and I'm sure people will appreciate that we were able to get him out safe and sound."
On the role played by Oman, Singh said various methods were adopted to tackle the problem.
"If a direct method failed to yield results, indirect methods are adopted and the aim is to get the problem solved," he said.
Asked whether Uzhunnanlil contacted any Indian officials to thank the government following his release, Singh said, "I'm quite sure that he will do it after he gets back from the Vatican."
It was for the priest to decide when he would come to India, Singh said responding to a question.
Another Union minister Alphons Kannanthanam, who hails from Kerala, said hectic diplomatic efforts were taken at various levels, including at the level of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Minister Sushma Swaraj, to bring the priest back to safety.
"The release of Father Uzhunnalil was made possible at the end of extremely complicated diplomatic efforts," Alphons said in Kottayam.
He acknowledged the help that India received from many countries, including Oman and Saudi Arabia, in fulfilling the mission.
Alphons said this in response to questions related to the role of the Indian government in getting the release of the abducted priest
A video of Uzhunnalil had surfaced in December last year in which he appealed to the government to free him.
In the clip, Uzhunnalil was seen saying, "If I were a European priest, I would have been taken more seriously. I'm from India. I'm perhaps not considered of much value."
In July, Union minister Sushma Swaraj had taken up the issue of Uzhunnalil's abduction with the deputy prime minister of Yemen and requested him to secure the release of the priest.
Last year, Swaraj had said Prime Minister Modi himself has spoken to various countries so that the priest could be released.