Sunday, June 24, 2007

Seach For Kidnapped Italian Prelate Continues In Philippines

Western Mindanao military Lt. Gen. Eugenio Cedo appeals to citizens for any information about an Italian missioner Giancarlo Bossi, who is being held by rebels in Zamboanga Sibugay province. The kidnappers are demanding one million dollars for the prelate's freedom. (Mindanao Examiner Photo Service)

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 24 Jun) – Philippine troops on Sunday continued searching for an Italian Catholic priest, two weeks after rebels seized him in the southern region of Mindanao.

Rogue Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels kidnapped Fr Giancarlo Bossi, of the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions (PIME), on June 10 after celebrating mass in the coastal village of Payao in Zamboanga Sibugay province.

The MILF is also helping in the search for Bossi who was reported to have been brought to Lanao del Norte province in the Muslim autonomous region, some 300 km east of Zamboanga.

But Army Lt. Gen. Eugenio Cedo, commander of the Western Mindanao Command, said latest military reports suggest that the 57-year old missioner from Milan could still be in the jungle of Zamboanga Sibugay.

“We believed the kidnapped priest, Father Bossi, is still in Zamboanga area,” Cedo told the independent regional newspaper, the Mindanao Examiner.

Cedo said the safe release of Bossi is more important and he appealed to citizens to help in the government search by providing authorities information about the priest and the kidnappers.

“The rescue and recovery of Reverend Giancarlo Bossi has been the priority of the Western Mindanao Command ever since the kidnapping,” Cedo said. “I appeal to those who have any information to help us in locating Father Bossi.”

Marine Maj. Gen. Mohammad Dolorfino, head of the government’s ad hoc joint action group, said they continue to receive information from civilians about Bossi and all these are being validated.

“There are reports that they are there (in Zamboanga Sibugay) ever since and this is being checked. There is information coming in. The reports are coming from civilian informants,” he said in a separate interview.

PIME put up an Internet diary dedicated to Bossi and there a photo believed that of the prelate in the middle of a marshland is shown and an M16 automatic rifle is visible on the foreground.

The photo raised suspicions that there is a secret negotiation going on for the safe release of Bossi, who is being held by Akiddin Abdusallam. (Juley Reyes, Joseph Danda and Juan Magtanggol)

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