10/15/2009, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Missionary abducted in Mindanao ill, but “perhaps he can get medicines”

Father Lovett, a fellow brother of the kidnapped priest said that knowing the area where the hostage is thought to be is an “extremely positive fact”. However, the clergyman’s health and his constant being moved around to avoid the military and police are cause for concern. Negotiations for his release are in the hands of local religious and political leaders. MILF spokesman denies his group is involved in the abduction.
Manila (AsiaNews) – “We are heartened from knowing that Fr Sinnott is in the area of Lanao del Norte, where it is possible to get medicines and medical aid. This is an extremely positive fact,” said Fr Cyril Lovett, a Columban missionary and director of the Far East journal. He spoke to AsiaNews about the disappearance of Fr. Michale Sinnott, who was abducted last Sunday in Pagadian (Mindanao). Just yesterday, police said that he was spotted in the area of Lanao del Norte.

Concerns about the fate of the Irish priest remain high because of his age, 80, and especially his health: he has had four bypasses and needs constant medical care.

“From what priests involved in abductions in the past say, we know that these groups move constantly to avoid detection,” Fr Lovett said. “For Fr Sinnott this is further complication given his health conditions.”

In the meantime, the leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) denied reports that the separatist group was responsible for the abduction.

According to Major General Ben Dolorfino, Western Mindanao Command chief, Fr Sinnott’s kidnappers made a call to his colleagues at the Columban Society in Pagadian City, but he did not provide any details about the conversation, saying he was “not authorised to reveal the content.”

Fr Lovett is convinced that his fellow brother is in the hands of a “breakaway faction of the MILF”. For him, the statement by the group’s spokesman, Eid Kabalu, who denied any involvement in the abduction, is credible.

“It is about money. The kidnappers want ransom money,” the Far East director said. “This is the most likely scenario. There is nothing to suggest that other factors are involved, including political claims or pro-autonomy demands in the region.”

Contacted about ongoing negotiations to free the Irish priest, Fr Lovett said, “the Irish government is doing what it can, but we are counting on the action of the bishop, police and local government, who know what to do in case of abductions.”

He stressed that “we do not want any bloodshed”, adding that it is presently impossible to foresee “what is going to happen next.”

The Columban missionary confirms that the institute will not pay any ransom, this despite being targeted and having lost a fellow brother in the past.

“If missionaries are targeted, that is because kidnappers know that in the end a ransom will be paid, and it will make our work impossible to continue,” Fr Lovett concluded. (DS)

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Search operations for abducted Irish priest underway in Mindanao
12/10/2009
Pagadian: Christians and Muslims waiting for Fr Sinnott’s arrival
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Fr Sinnott is alive, first contact with captors
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Irish priest kidnapped in Mindanao alive
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Church and government will not yield to the kidnappers' ransom demand for F. Sinnott
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