10/13/2009, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Irish priest kidnapped in Mindanao alive

by Santosh Digal
Police and military spotted Fr Michael Sinnott, abducted in Pagadian on Saturday. Church calls for caution in blaming Islamic groups for the abduction.
Manila (AsiaNews) – Filipino military have spotted Fr Michael Sinnott on Monday in Lanao del Sur province, some 70 kilometres from Pagadian where he was abducted on Saturday. His captors remain unidentified, but Mgr Emmanuel Cabajar, archbishop of Pagadian, said caution is necessary before blaming Islamic groups for the kidnapping.

Filipino military and police are intensifying the search. Abu Sayyaf terrorists and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels, active for years in Lanao del Sur province, are their main suspects.

MILF spokesman Eid Kabalu has rejected any suggestion that his group is involved.  “We [. . .] see no reason why our men should be involved in this,” he said. “We don't know who is behind this, but what is important is that we are willing to cooperate and assist the government look for him [Sinnott] for humanitarian reasons.”

In 2007, the MILF acted as go-between for the kidnappers of PIME’s Fr Giancarlo Bossi, who was seized in Zamboanga and freed after 39 days of captivity.

Fr Shay Cullen, Columban priest and human rights activist in the Philippines, urged everyone to pray for Father Sinnott’s release. “This is an appeal to all people concerned with the kidnapping of Fr Sinnott, [. . .] to pray for his safe release and return to his mission and the people he served for so many years,” he said.

Born in Barnatown (Wexford) in 1929, Father Sinnott has been in the Philippines for the past 40 years.

Described as ‘jolly” by his fellow brothers, the elderly clergyman is fluent in a number of languages and is well loved by the population, someone without an enemy.

Active in many charities, in particular on behalf of disabled children, he founded a charity in 1998 called the Hangop Kabataan Foundation, which is dedicated to the sick and to children with disabilities.

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Fr Sinnott is alive, first contact with captors
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