MILF Pulls Out From Mission To Free Kidnapped Italian Priest In Southern Philippines

July 3, 2007 at 12:52 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

MAGUINDANAO (Mindanao Examiner / 03 Jul) – Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels helping in the search for a kidnapped Italian Catholic missionary in the southern Philippines have pulled out from the rescue mission.

The pullout, it said, would allow government forces to operate on its own in an effort to get back Father Giancarlo Bossi, of the Papal Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME). Bossi, 57, was kidnapped June 10 by rogue MILF rebels after celebrating mass in Payao town in Zamboanga Sibugay province.

The MILF, which is currently negotiating peace with Manila, said the kidnappers were demanding “tens of millions” of pesos in ransom.

The MILF forged an agreement in 2004 that paved the way for rebel forces to help government hunt down terrorists and criminal elements in areas where it is actively operating.

“It is now the sole responsibility of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to do the job alone,” said Mohammad Nasif, leader of MILF forces, helping in the rescue of Bossi.

The MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, has previously helped in rescuing many Filipino and foreign kidnapped victims in the restive region of Mindanao.

Nasif said rebel forces can rapidly respond should the Philippine military request the MILF to take part again in the rescue mission.

The MILF said it pulled out some 1,000 rebels from the provinces of Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte where government troops are searching for the priest.

The PIME said it has no information about the fate of Bossi, a native of Milan, and whether he is alive or not.

“This day PIME-Regional House in Zamboanga hasn’t received a single “proof of life” from the abductors of Father Giancarlo Bossi,” it said.

Philippine military chief, Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, said the missioner is still alive, but his health could be deteriorating.

Bossi’s family in Italy said the priest is suffering from hypertension and that he needs medication.

“We have indications of life, but we do not want to discuss the details because it could give away the location and by giving away the location it could also give the identities of the people working on it in the end it might jeopardize the safety of Father Bossi,” Esperon said.

Bossi is the third Italian priest kidnapped in Mindanao since 1998. 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 Father 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 captor. (Mindanao Examiner)

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