11 Days Passed, Kidnapped Priest Still Far From Freedom

June 21, 2007 at 12:15 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

ZAMBOANGA SIBUGAY (Mindanao Examiner / 21 Jun) – Philippine troops continue searching for an Italian Catholic missioner, eleven days after he was seized by rebels in the restive region of Mindanao.

Rebels have reportedly demanded one million dollars in exchange for the safe release of Rome-based Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions priest Giancarlo Bossi.

“Soldiers are tracking down the kidnappers and the priest and right now, we do not their exact location, although there were reports that Bossi is taken to Lanao del Norte province,” Major General Nehemias Pajarito, commander of the Army’s First Infantry Division, told the regional Mindanao Examiner newspaper.

Bossi, 57, was kidnapped June 10 after celebrating mass in the coastal town of Payao in Zamboanga Sibugay province, 300 kms from Lanao del Norte.

Police tagged Akiddin Abdusallam, a rogue leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), as mastermind of the kidnapping.

Pajarito said the search for the priest has been hampered by bad weather and rugged terrain in the province. Torrential rains the past days, he said, slowed down the search for Bossi, a native of Milan.

“Despite the rain, the search is still going on,” he said.

The MILF, which is negotiating peace with Manila, is also helping in the search for the kidnapped priest. Mohagher Iqbal, chief MILF peace negotiator, said Abdusallam is a not a member of his group, but Abu Sayyaf, blamed by Manila for the terrorism and kidnappings for ransom in the troubled region.

Philippine military chief General Hermogenes Esperon said troops have located the hideout of the kidnappers and that Bossi may soon be freed, but obviously it was far from truth.

Dolorfino said the safety of the hostage is the primary concern of the military and that there is an ongoing negotiation to secure Bossi’s freedom without paying ransom.

“Our primary consideration is Bossi’s safety. We will exert all peaceful means to resolve the matter,” he said.

The Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions has expressed concern over the fate of Bossi, who is said to be suffering from hypertension.

“As far as we know the captors and their masterminds have not yet been clearly identified, however the evidence points to a well-organized group who could make use of a pump boat, they were fully armed and well equipped and the capture of Fr. Giancarlo was carefully planned.”

“Who are these Captors and Masterminds? Who is behind this drama? Why don’t they declare their purpose? Why are they playing with the life of a person and religious leader serving the people in a remote area? Are they threatening everybody, even the whole Nation and the International Community? They must have a purpose. Some people must know about this plan,” it said in a statement on Thursday.

It also appealed for any information about the priest.

“We pray that persons of good will may dare to bring out the truth and free the nation from those disgraceful acts of tensions Fr. Giancarlo may feel abandoned like Jesus on the cross, may we share with him and with all our people the joy of resurrection,” it said.

On Wednesday, Italian missionaries in the Philippines have put up a virtual diary on the Internet to keep track of developments of a kidnapped prelate.

“It’s raining in Zamboanga City. Reports, rather than bringing relief, bring only sad confusion. Days ago the military said that Giancarlo would have been released by the days end, then in 24 hours, then 48 and now in 72.”

“Days ago, various agents of the shadowy yet trustworthy secret service told us that Giancarlo was being held in the area of Sibuguey. Then he was no longer there, but near Lanao del Norte (300 kilometres east); then reports placed him on Basilan island (300 kilometres West). It’s like shooting at the breeze. The truth is lost on the face of the map,” part of the entry on the diary said. (Mindanao Examiner)

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