Kidnappers Of Italian Priest In Southern RP Break Off Talks With Emissaries

July 1, 2007 at 6:44 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

COTABATO CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 01 Jul) – Gunmen holding a kidnapped Italian Catholic priest in the southern Philippines have broken off talks with emissaries, making negotiations for the safe release of the hostage now more difficult.

The Milan-born Father Giancarlo Bossi, of the Papal Institute of Foreign Missions, was seized by rogue members of the Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front on June 10 after celebrating mass in the coastal town of Payao in Zamboanga Sibugay province.

The MILF, which is negotiating peace with Manila, denied involvement in the kidnapping and is now helping the Filipino government rescue Bossi. But on Sunday, it said the kidnappers have stopped talking with both government and MILF emissaries for a still unknown reason.

It said Bossi’s rescue is uncertain and the gang holding the 57-year old priest has been elusive.

“The rescue operation for the Italian priest, Giancarlo Bossi, is still uncertain,” the MILF said, adding “Bossi’s kidnappers are highly elusive and stopped to deal with emissaries of both the government and MILF.”

Philippine authorities said Bossi is being held captive by MILF leader Akiddin Abdusallam, tagged as also behind previous kidnappings-for-ransom in Zamboanga Peninsula.

Military officials gave conflicting reports about Bossi’s whereabouts and first said the priest was in Naga town in Zamboanga Sibugay and that troops had surrounded the kidnappers’ hideout.

But days later the military said Bossi is being held in Lanao del Norte province in the Muslim autonomous region. It again said that the priest is still in Zamboanga Sibugay. There were too many security officials making different statement about the progress of Bossi’s kidnapping.

Manila has dispatched three emissaries last week to try getting proofs that Bossi is still alive.

Eid Kabalu, MILF spokesman, has previously said that the kidnappers were demanding “tens of millions of pesos” in ransom. Another senior MILF leader, Mohagher Iqbal, said the kidnappers only demanded P15 million.

Marine Maj. Gen. Mohammad Dolorfino, head of the government’s ad hoc joint action group involved in the peace process with the MILF, disputed Kabalu and Iqbal statements, saying, the kidnappers have not asked any ransom.

Army Lt. Gen. Eugenio Cedo, commander of the Western Mindanao Command, said they have “good and positive” developments about Bossi, but he would not give details, saying, it could jeopardize the operation to free the missioner.

Kidnappings-for-ransom has become a lucrative business for rebels and criminal syndicates in Mindanao, where many areas are underdeveloped and job opportunities are scarce.

Sometimes criminal gangs kidnapped civilians and hand them over to rebels in exchange for a cut in the ransom. Poverty has been blamed for many kidnappings in the South.

MILF rebels also kidnapped an Italian priest, Luciano Benedetti, in Zamboanga del Norte province in 1998. Benedetti, 52, was held for nearly 10 weeks until he was freed in exchange for a huge government ransom.

In 2001, renegade MILF rebels also snatched Fr Giuseppe Pierantoni as the 44-year-old from Bologna said mass in the parish church of Dimataling town in Zamboanga del Sur.

The priest was freed after six months in captivity in exchange for an unspecified ransom, but he claimed to have escaped from his kidnappers. His companions claimed he suffered from Stockholm syndrome, a phenomenon in which a hostage begins to identify with and grow sympathetic to his or her captor. (Mindanao Examiner)

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