Monday, October 26, 2009

Kidnapped Irish priest in Philippines is alive, Muslim rebels say

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / October 26, 2009) – The Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group helping the government recover a kidnapped Irish clergy in the volatile southern region of Mindanao said the ailing 79-year old missioner is still alive.

Eid kabalu, a spokesman for the MILF, said the ailing Columban priest, Michael Sinnott, is being held in Lanao del Sur, a Muslim province in central Mindanao. The Wexford native was kidnapped October 11 from his missionary house in Pagadian City in western Mindanao by a group of pirates led by Guingona Samal.

Media reports last week said Sinnott had died in captivity after suffering from a massive heart attack. The Missionary Society of St. Columban where Sinnott belongs said the priest, who had multiple heart surgeries in the past, is alive, but weak.

“As far as we know, Father Sinnott is alive and being held somewhere in Lanao del Sur. We are coordinating closely with the Philippine authorities to help recover the priest,” Kabalu told the Mindanao Examiner.

“This report that the priest had died could be all part of the kidnappers’ strategy to confuse the authorities or put pressure to Sinnott’s family,” Kabalu said without elaborating further.

Police had previously linked the priest’s kidnapping to a rebel commander Jamat Latip, whose group is operating in Lanao del Sur, but this was denied by the MILF.

At least 2 Irish and three Italian priests had been kidnapped by Moro rebels in Mindanao the past decade and most of them were freed in exchange for huge ransoms. (Mindanao Examiner)

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