11/09/2009, 00.00
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Teacher kidnapped in Sulu beheaded. Concern for Fr. Sinnott

by Santosh Digal
The head of Gabriel Canizares, who was kidnapped on 20 October, was found this morning in Jolo (Sulu, Mindanao) near a petrol pump. The body is still missing. Church concerned about the life of Fr Sinnott calls for dialogue with the kidnappers and warns about the risk of military operations for the liberation of the missionary.

Manila (AsiaNews) - The head of Gabriel Canizares, was found today in Jolo (Sulu, Mindanao) by the police. Canizares was a teacher and principal of an elementary school kidnapped last October 20 in Patikul (Sulu) by a commando 12 armed men. The kidnappers, linked to Islamic extremist Abu Sayyaf had demanded a ransom of 30 thousand Euros. The head of the local police, Usman Pingay, said "the head of a man was discovered around 5 am (local time) beside a petrol station inside a closed plastic bag." He adds that "the rest of the body has not been found yet, but we have already launched a manhunt to arrest the perpetrators of this crime".  Meanwhile there are fears for the life of Fr Sinnott, a Columban missionary kidnapped on 11 October in Pagadian (Zamboanga, Mindanao) in conditions similar to those of Canizares.

Fr. Patrick O'Donoghue, head of the Institute of St. Columban, emphasizes the need for authorities to determine negotiations with the kidnappers. In fact, he warns about the risks of massive armed operations by the army and police which would put at risk the life of the missionary. "For now I'm not negotiating with anyone - says the priest - the Church has so far been in contact with the kidnappers. We know no-one who has so far established a dialogue with the kidnappers of Fr Sinnott”.

"We hope that the kidnappers would consider the age and health problems of the missionary - continued Fr. O'Donoghue - and we hope that he will be released very soon. "

Almost a month after the kidnapping, the authorities have not yet established real contact with the kidnappers. They have demanded a ransom of 2 million U.S. dollars for the release of Fr Sinnott through a video posted on October 31. In the video the missionary, who is 79 and suffers from severe heart problems, is holding a newspaper dated 22 October and claims to be still in good health. The main suspects of the kidnapping are now the terrorists of Abu Sayyaf rebels and the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front). The MILF has always rejected all the allegations, offering its cooperation in efforts to free the priest.

Meanwhile the head of military operations Benito de Leon, said that Philippine military and police forces have surrounded the boundaries of the province of Lanao del Sur, the possible hideout of the kidnappers. He assures that "in order not to undermine the fragile dialogue between government and MILF we will not start any operation without the approval of the central government and of the crisis  unit of Zamboanga”.

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See also
Philippine military and Moro Muslims together to liberate p. Sinnott
Joy for the release of Fr Sinnott
Irish priest kidnapped in Mindanao alive
Church and government will not yield to the kidnappers' ransom demand for F. Sinnott
Search operations for abducted Irish priest underway in Mindanao


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