Friday, October 23, 2009

Philippines offers reward for info on kidnapped Irish clergy

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Al Jacinto / October 23, 2009) – Philippine authorities on Friday have offered P200,000 for any information about an elderly Irish clergy kidnapped in the volatile southern region of Mindanao.

The bounty was offered to help police and military locate Columban missioner Michael Sinnott who was taken from his home in Pagadian City in the western Mindanao province of Zamboanga del Sur.

Allan Molde, the spokesman for provincial crisis group handling Sinnott’s case, said the money came from the mayor of Pagadian City, Samuel Co. “Mayor Co has offered P200,000 to whoever who can give us any information on the exact location of Father Sinnott, or to whoever who can help us recover Father Sinnott,” he said.

The military said Sinnott is being held by pirates led by Guingona Samal in the hinterlands of Lanao del Norte province in Northern Mindanao. Samal headed the gang that kidnapped the ailing priest on October 11, according to a regional military chief Major General Benjamin Dolorfino.

But police also linked a commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, to the kidnapping of Sinnott. The MILF denied the accusations and said a kidnap-for-ransom group is holding the Wexford native.

“We have information that a gang of kidnappers are holding the priest in Lanao del Norte province. We know the location of the hostage and we have forces now in the area. There is action on the ground,” said Eid Kabalu, a senior MILF leader.

Dolorfino said the elderly cleric, who will turn 80 in December, had several heart bypass surgeries in the past and needs his medication. He said that Sinnott’s captors had contacted The Missionary Society of St. Columban in Mindanao, but this was denied by priest’s superiors.

The Missionary Society of St. Columban has last week 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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