Friday, June 29, 2007

RP Military Holds Info On Kidnapped Italian Priest

ZAMBOANGA SIBUGAY (Mindanao Examiner / 29 Jun) – The Philippine military on Friday said it has new information about a kidnapped Italian Roman Catholic priest in the troubled South, a spokesman said.

Lt. Col. Bartolome Bacarro would not give details about Giancarlo Bossi, of the Papal Institute of Foreign Missions (PIME), saying it could jeopardize the ongoing operation to free the 57-year old priest.

Bossi was seized June 10 in the coastal village of Bulawan in Zamboanga Sibugay’s Payao town by rogue members of the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which is fighting for a separate homeland in Mindanao.

"There are positive developments,” he said without elaborating.

The MILF denied any involvement in the kidnapping and is helping in the search for Bossi. Eid Kabalu, a rebel spokesman, said the kidnappers were demanding “tens of millions” of pesos in ransom.

The military previously said that troops have tracked down and surrounded the lair of the kidnappers in Zamboanga Sibugay only to say again that the priest has been taken to Lanao del Norte province in the Muslim autonomous region.

Italian priests in the Philippines have expressed concern about Bossi and asked authorities to locate the priest.

“We were told that both the government forces and the MILF contacts have been monitoring all possible areas, all possible armed groups, and all possible witnesses, even the most secret hideouts, using the latest high-tech devices.”

“We were told that emissaries were sent with cell phones to verify if he is alive, we were told that medicines had been provided for his hypertension, we were told he is well alive riding a horse. We were told that the kidnappers are asking for 15 million pesos. But when we tried to verify all these reports we have come to the conclusion that they are all false reports,” the PIME said in a statement Friday.

PIME said until now the Philippine authorities have provided no proof that Bossi is still alive. And that the kidnappers have not contacted them.

“So far there is no proof of life, no clear identification of the kidnappers, no confirmed sighting, no demand for ransom, no declaration of purpose for this sudden abduction.”

“We know that Giancarlo cannot disappear like a ghost. He is too big and must be difficult to hide him. We are very worried about him,” PIME said. (Juley Reyes and Juan Magtanggol)

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