EU diplomat appeals for release of kidnapped Irish priest in S Philippines

17:34, October 16, 2009      

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The European Union's top diplomat to the Philippines on Friday called on the kidnappers of Fr. Michael Sinnott to "immediately and safely" release the ailing priest.

Alistair Macdonald, head of the delegation of the European Commission to the Philippines, expressed concern on reports that some elements of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are behind the kidnapping.

"I very much hope the MILF would be able to ensure that Fr. Sinnott is released safely," MacDonald said, adding that the Irish government has not contacted his office to help in facilitating the release of their national, who was snatched by gunmen in Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur Sunday night.

Sinnott, 79, was reportedly seen in a "bloodied condition" by witnesses in Lanao province Thursday, military officials said.

Authorities have already identified four of the six armed men who snatched Sinnot at his residence at the Columban House in Gatas District.

A report said the kidnappers of the priest had already contacted the Columban society.

The military said the suspects are members of a kidnap-for-ransom group led by local pirate Guingona Samal alias "Kumander Ingo" who operates mainly in Zamboanga del Sur. He allegedly owned the watercraft used that transported Sinnot from Pagadian City to Lanao. He then turned over Sinnott to an MILF commander.

The MILF denied that one of its commanders was holding the kidnapped Irish priest and insisted they wanted to help rescue Sinnott.

Sinnott was the third Columban priest abducted in the south in recent years.

In 1997, militants kidnapped Desmond Hartford in the Islamic heartland of Marawi, releasing him after less than two weeks. In 2001, Rufus Halley was killed when he tried to fend off gunmen who tried to abduct him.

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