Philippine authorities vow to rescue kidnapped Irish priest

15:23, October 12, 2009      

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Philippine authorities have formed a task force to rescue a 78-year-old Irish priest being kidnapped from his residence in a southern Philippine city, officials said Monday.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the creation of the task force Sunday night immediately after learning the abduction, the third in nine years in the country targeting Western priests.

Six unidentified armed men forcibly took Father Mechael Sinot from his house in Pagadian city, Zamboanga del Sur province, at around 7:20 p.m. Sunday (1120 GMT). Police said abductors abandoned the get-away vehicle at a port before fleeing in a motorized boat.

"The President strongly condemns the kidnapping," Remonde said.

Police and military investigators said they had yet to determine the identities of the kidnappers and their motive of abduction.

Maj. Gen. Romeo Lustestica, commander of the Army's 1st Infantry Division, said he suspected the kidnappers would demand high amount of ransom in exchange of the hostage but the military has yet received any ransom request.

Several armed groups are known to be operating in Pagadian and surrounding areas, including the extremist group Abu Sayyaf. The group is behind a number of high-profile kidnapping and bombings in the country. Authorities blamed it for kidnapping Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi, also in the south, in June 2007. Bossi was released a month later.

Sinnott, a native of Barntown. Co. Wexford, has been assigned twice in Mindanao. The first service ended 1966 and Sinnott returned in 1976.

Lustestica said the task force, which is composed of the military and the police officials, "is doing all it can" to ensure the safe release and recovery of Sinnott.

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