No Traces Of Kidnapped Italian Priest In Southern Philippines

July 5, 2007 at 6:53 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

ZAMBOANGA SIBUGAY (Mindanao Examiner / 05 Jul) – Philippine troops have failed to locate an Italian Catholic priest, three weeks after rebels kidnapped him from a remote village in Zamboanga Sibugay province, south of Manila.

Father Giancarolo Bossi, of the Papal Institute for Foreign Missions, was kidnapped by rogue members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on June 10 after celebrating mass in the coastal village of Payao. The kidnappers reportedly demanded “tens of millions” of pesos in ransom, according to the MILF.

On Wednesday, Italian lawmaker Margherita Boniver arrived in Manila to work with the Filipino government for the safe release of Bossi, 57.

The Milan-born priest is suffering from hypertension, his congregation said.Security officials have previously said that troops had surrounded the hideout of the kidnappers and that his rescue is imminent, but this proved wrong.

Philippine military chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon said assured that security forces were tracking down Bossi.

“I must assure each and everyone that the AFP in the area, together with the PNP [Philippine National Police], are not letting up on the operations,” he told reporters in Manila.

Bossi’s congregation said it has not received any proof that the priest is alive.

“All indications would tell us that Father Bossi is alive. Proof of life would be something higher, meaning a picture or a voice tape, but it’s more of [an] indication, what we have right now,” Esperon said.

More than 2,000 soldiers have joined the search for Bossi. The United States also deployed an EP-3 Orion reconnaissance plane to help the Philippine troops.

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. (Juley Reyes and Juan Magtanggol)

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