Doubts Cast On Philippine Reports About Bossi Kidnapping

July 9, 2007 at 8:12 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

ZAMBOANGA CITY (Mindanao Examiner / 09 Jul) – The Papal Institute for Foreign Missions doubted government reports that the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group is holding its priest Giancarlo Bossi in the southern Philippines.

Bossi was kidnapped June 10 in the province of Zamboanga Sibugay.

Acting Filipino Defense chief Norberto Gonzales has told Margherita Boniver, special envoy of the Italian government, that the 57-year old priest from Milan is being held by Abu Sayyaf militants.

Philippine military and police officials have tagged Akiddin Abdusallam, a rogue leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as mastermind in the kidnapping.

The MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group has denied involvement in the kidnapping, but said Bossi’s captors were demanding “tens of millions of pesos” in ransom.

“The theory that Abu Sayyaf [“sword bearers” in the local language, referring to a radical group inspired by Al-Qaeda based in the southern Philippines] is behind the abduction of Fr Giancarlo Bossi does not hold water.”

“Rather, from what we know, he is being held hostage by a gang of criminals,” Fr Luciano Benedetti was quoted by PIME’s AsiaNews as saying.

Benedetti has been following developments in the kidnapping case closely from the start from the regional house of PIME in Zamboanga.

Boniver, who was in the Philippines last week, also expressed caution about Abu Sayyaf. “There are other theories about the kidnappers, for example, the head of the army mentioned former members of the Islamic Liberation Front,” she told AsiaNews.

In fact, the kidnapping of the missionary of the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions (PIME) has taken place at a politically sensitive time for Manila.

Experts on the Philippines have told AsiaNews that “bringing in the Islamic extremists of Abu Sayyaf could mean many things, and it is not a foregone conclusion that they have anything to do with the kidnapping of the Italian priest”.

“In the first place, the entry into force of a new anti-terrorism law is anxiously awaited in the country. It is scheduled for 15 July and will give the army practically unlimited powers.

Indicating Islamic extremists as the instigators of the kidnapping will pave the way for the government to order a military blitz that would very dangerous for the safety of the hostage’s life.”

“What’s more, if the government theory is credited, it would be fair to expect more participation in the searches by the United States, which in the meantime could guarantee substantial funding which Manila needs,” it said in a report published Monday.

The AsiaNews reported: “There are gaping inconsistencies in the entire affair: if no one has yet made real contact with the kidnappers, then there is no basis to establish their identity. It should be considered that, as in all cases of abduction which take place in the Philippines, there have been many requests for money in exchange for information, a practice that Abu Sayyaf does not allow when it is really at work, because it would not want to diminish its action.”

And finally, “the area of Payao, where Fr Bossi was kidnapped, is not a zone of action of the Islamic radicals. If one speaks about former members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, this must mean common bandits in search of money, and not still more determined extremists,” it said.

Benedetti was kidnapped in 1998 by rogue MILF rebels in Zamboanga del Norte province and freed ten weeks later after government negotiators paid huge ransom to his captors. (AsiaNews)

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