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Fears kidnapped Irish priest handed to rebels

Article published on the 2009-10-14 Latest update 2009-10-14 15:17 TU

Undated photo of abducted priest Michael Sinnott, 78.(Photo: Reuters)

Undated photo of abducted priest Michael Sinnott, 78.
(Photo: Reuters)

An elderly Irish priest kidnapped by pirates in the southern Philippines may have been handed to Muslim rebels, the military said. Seventy-nine-year-old Father Michael Sinnott, who was seized on Sunday night, was last seen in an area known to be a rebel stronghold.

Sinnott was taken from the Missionary Society of Saint Columban compound in Pagadian City by six armed men. After being bundled into a speedboat, it’s believed he was taken about 30 kilometres to a remote area near the Zamboanga peninsula, known to be a stronghold of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The authorities say they know who was behind Sunday’s kidnapping, but do not know who currently has Sinnott. Regional military chief Major General Benjamin Dolorfino says notorious pirate leader Guingona Samal was behind the kidnapping, though Sinnott may have fallen into the hands of local MILF commander Latip Jamat.

Manila correspondent Girlie Linao said that authorities had were unsure why the priest was abducted.

"The authorities are thinking it is for ransom. He is after all a foreigner ... and as with past incidents of kidnapping foreigners, the kidnappers usually receive a huge amount of ransom," she said.

Interview: Correspondent Girlie Linao, Manila

14/10/2009 by Philip Turle

Sinnott has been in the Philippines for 40 years. He recently underwent a quadruple heart bypass and requires constant medication. Dolorfino expressed hope that his abductors would treat the priest well, but says no ransom demand has been received.

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