Kerala priest Father Tom Uzhunnalil, who was recently rescued from Islamic State captivity, finally arrived in Kochi on Sunday morning.

Fr Uzhunnalil was freed on September 12 after being kept in captivity by ISIS activists for 18 months in strife-torn Yemen. On his arrival in Kochi, Fr Uzhunnalil expressed his happiness and thanked everyone who prayed for him.

"How do I feel upon reaching home? I am happy. I thank the Almighty. I thank everybody. God bless all," the priest said.

Several Congress politicians, including opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, and some other prominent personalities were at the airport to welcome Fr Uzhunnalil. However, no ministers from the ruling LDF government were present during the priest's arrival. Chennithala said it was inappropriate for the government to not send at least one representative.

Fr Tom Uzhunnalil lands in Delhi, meets PM Modi

Earlier, upon his return to New Delhi, Fr Uzhunnalil had informed that his captors did not harm him physically. He said the power of people's prayers changed the hearts of his abductors, who did not hurt him and even offered him food during the holy month of Ramadan.

"I feel the prayers of people and their sacrifices changed the hearts of my abductors and prevented them from hurting me... I am certain, God had done something," he pointed out.

Fr Uzhunnalil had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on September 28 in New Delhi after his arrival. 

What I went through had a purpose: Fr Tom Uzhunnalil

On his meeting with PM Modi, the priest said, "The most interesting part of the conversation I had with the Prime Minister was when he said I am free now and I should get stronger and serve people." 

Fr Uzhunnalil was kidnapped in March 2016 by the Islamic State in Yemen, when they attacked a retirement home in Aden run by the Missionaries of Charity, killing sixteen people, including four nuns.