Philippine Authorities Fail To Locate Kidnapped Italian Priest

July 9, 2007 at 4:13 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

ZAMBOANGA SIBUGAY (Mindanao Examiner / 09 Jul) – Philippine authorities have failed to locate a kidnapped Italian Roman Catholic priest held by Muslim rebels in the restive southern region.

Rouge members of the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), seized Fr Giancarlo Bossi, 57, on June 10 in the coastal town of Payao in Zamboanga Sibugay province.

The Milan-born priest belongs to the Rome-based Pontificio Instituto Missioni Estere (PIME).
“We have no developments yet. Our troops are searching for Father Bossi,” Major General Nehemias Pajarito, commander of the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, told the Mindanao Examiner on Monday.

Last week, three photos of Fr Bossi were sent through cell phone to his friend, Spanish priest Angel Calvo, in Zamboanga City. Military sources said a former town mayor was the source of the photos. It was unknown how the former politician was able to get the photos.

Philippine authorities were investigating the authenticity of the photos, all showing Fr Bossi sitting on a boulder surrounded by trees. One photograph showed Fr Bossi holding a transistor radio.

“The emergence of photographs of the kidnapped priest two days ago, has raised hopes, but now there are speculations and requests coming from strange people, who we prefer to keep at bay. The interest of the media can also be dangerous if it is not well managed: we are interested in Fr Bossi as a person, not as an object of curiosity.”

“This is just why prayers for his release are being organized continuously: the community of PIME in the Philippines has invited the nation’s faithful – as it has done every day so far – to pray incessantly for the liberation of Fr Bossi and for his deliverance from those who kidnapped him,” PIME said.

The Peace Advocate Zamboanga, headed by Fr Calvo, said they would hold a mass in Zamboanga City on Tuesday, which will coincide with the international day of prayer called by PIME, exactly one month after the kidnapping of Fr Bossi.

The MILF, which is monitoring the situation, previously said the kidnappers of the priest were demanding “tens of millions of pesos” in ransom.

Acting Filipino Defense chief Norberto Gonzales told an Italian special envoy Margherita Boniver that Abu Sayyaf militants with links to al-Qaeda terror network are holding the priest. Boniver was in the Philippines last week to look into the progress of the search for Fr Bossi.

But military and police maintained that the Milan-born priest is being held by rogue MILF rebels and not the Abu Sayyaf. The province is a known lair of the MILF.

The priest was even reported to be in Basilan island. “There are reported sightings, reported landings that Bossi is in the area, but we have no positive identification, no positive engagement,” the island’s military chief, Marine Colonel Ramiro Alivio.

He said the photos of Fr Bossi will help military authorities in the search for the hostage.

“I consider the picture of Bossi as a source of information. We are evaluating the background, the foliage, [his] disposition, the expression on his face,” he said in a separate interview.

Bossi is the third Italian priest kidnapped the past 9 years in southern Philippines.

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

In 2001, renegade MILF rebels and members of the bandit group called Pentagon Gang 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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