Sunday, October 25, 2009

No news on kidnapped Irish priest in Mindanao

COTABATO CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / October 25, 2009) – Kidnappers of an elderly Irish clergy have not contacted authorities in the southern Philippines as the crisis entered its second week.

Reverend Father Michael Sinnott, who will turn 80 in December, was taken at gunpoint October 11 by six men from his missionary home in the western Mindanao city of Pagadian. And the military, which is tracking down the Columban missioner, said the kidnappers are holed out in the hinterlands of Lanao del Sur, an area in central Mindanao where Moro rebels are actively operating.

Authorities said Sinnott, from County Wexford, has had several heart surgeries and badly needs his medicines, but there have been no contact with the kidnappers and making it difficult for his family or the Missionary Society of St. Columban where the ailing priest belongs.

Last week, authorities have offered P200,000 for any information about Sinnott’s whereabouts. Allan Molde, the spokesman for provincial crisis group handling Sinnott’s case, there have been no contacts with the kidnappers, one of them has been identified by the military as pirate leader Guingona Samal.

Police also said that Samal handed the priest to a Moro rebel commander Jamat Latip in Lanao del Sur. Latip denied the allegations, according to Army Colonel Benito de Leon, who contacted the rebel leader by phone last week.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which is negotiating peace with Manila, also denied that Latip was involved in the kidnapping and ordered its forces to help recover Sinnott.

Eid Kabalu, a senior MILF leader, said the order came from the group’s chieftain Murad Ebrahim after ambassadors from the European Union sought its assistance.

“We are helping the Philippine government recover Father Sinnott and this after EU ambassadors sought the MILF help in recovering the Irish priest,” he said on Sunday.

Kabalu said Spanish ambassador Luis-Romero led a delegation last week and met with Ebrahim in Mindanao. Among those who attended the meeting were ambassadors from Belgium, the Czech Republic, Romania, Finland and Greece among others.

He said the MILF has formed a task force that will handle Sinnott’s case.

“As a matter of policy, the MILF is obliged to exert its best efforts to help for the safe and immediate recovery of Father Sinnot,” Ebrahim was quoted as saying. “His kidnapping requires all conscience-guided people and those with true faith in God to extend every help for his immediate freedom.”

The Missionary Society of St. Columban has appealed to US President Barack Obama to help secure the safe release of Sinnott, who is the third Irish missioner to be kidnapped in Mindanao since 1997. Fr Des Hartford was held by Moro rebels for 12 days, and in 2001, Fr Rufus Hally, a missioner from Waterford, was shot dead during an attempted abduction in the volatile region. (Mindanao Examiner)

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