Philippines searches for abducted Irish missionary

| October 12, 2009

MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine security forces combed coastal areas on the southern island of Mindanao on Monday to locate gunmen holding an Irish Catholic missionary as church leaders appealed to the kidnappers to free the ailing priest.

Michael Sinnott, 78, a Columbian priest, was taken at gunpoint by six men who stormed his home in Pagadian City on Mindanao on Sunday. Witnesses said the priest was bundled into a van and later dragged to a boat.

No one has claimed responsibility but the area is home to several Muslim radical groups, including the Abu Sayyaf, notorious for high-profile kidnappings. The Abu Sayyaf kidnapped Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi in 2007 and later released him.

"We've sent out teams to scour coastal areas in Lanao del Sur and Zamboanga peninsula to look for the kidnappers," national police chief Jesus Verzosa told reporters.

Catholic bishops in the Philippines appealed to Sinnott's kidnappers to free the priest and "allow him to go back to his charitable work".

"Father Mick is not in the best of health and needs his daily dosage of medicines," Bishop Emmanuel Cabajar of Pagadian City told reporters.

Sinnott, who has spent nearly 50 years in the Philippines, was active in the protection of abused and abandoned children on Mindanao, Cabajar said.

In January, Muslim rebels kidnapped three Red Cross workers, including an Italian and Swiss national, on a remote southern island, but set them free after several months.

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Category: Mission Trip/Missionary Security

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