Philippine defense secretary says MILF rebels kidnap priest

16:03, October 28, 2009      

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Philippine Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said Wednesday that rogue Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels are holding Irish priest Michael Sinnott who was seized from his house in Pagadian City last Oct. 11.

"The exact group (that kidnapped Sinnott) appears to be the rogue MILF group," Teodoro said in a press briefing.

Teodoro said a sub-commander of the 113rd Base Command is holding Sinnott. He said he doesn't know what prompted rebels to kidnap Sinnott.

Teodoro said he will allow the Crisis Management Committee (CMC), led by Zamboanga del Sur Governor Aurora Cerilles, to ensure the release of the 79-year-old Columban priest.

"I will let them (CMC) do their job as best as they see fit," he said, adding that what is important is the safe release of Sinnott.

Philippine military officials earlier said that a group of pirates led by one Guingona Samal snatched Sinnot. There were earlier reports that MILF rebels were behind the kidnapping but the military downplayed the role of the rebels. The MILF leadership denied that they're behind the abduction and even offered to help in the recovery of Sinnott.

In a separate press briefing, Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner, public affairs office chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said there are indications that the MILF rebels are holding Sinnott at the boundaries of Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte. He said that based on reports, Samal's group turned over Sinnott to the rebels.

"If the MILF is really sincere to help, they should talk to their commanders (to hand over Sinnott to government forces)," he said.

Brawner reiterated the military's appeal to the MILF not to deploy rebel forces to help in securing the freedom of Sinnott.

"If possible, they should not operate as combat units on the ground because the (Army's) 104th Brigade is already there, they are ready to move anytime if the Crisis Management Committee says so," he said.

Brawner said the military has not confirmed if the MILF has indeed deployed forces on the ground.

Source: Xinhua
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