Negotiations Begin For Release Of Kidnapped Italian Priest In Southern Philippines

July 17, 2007 at 4:57 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

ZAMBOANGA SIBUGAY (Mindanao Examiner / 17 Jul) – The Papal Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) said it has established contacts with the kidnappers holding an Italian Catholic priest hostage in the southern Philippines.

It said negotiations for the safe release of Father Giancarlo Bossi, from Milan, is going on. The clergy was kidnapped after celebrating mass on June 10 in the coastal town of Payao in Zamboanga Sibugay province.

The Catholic news agency AsiaNews said mediation for Bossi’s release still continues and that contacts are ongoing, but reported that PIME missionaries in the Philippines are cautiously optimistic.

“We are waiting for positive developments,” a PIME missionary in Zamboanga City and former hostage Father Luciano Benedetti told,” said, adding, many people were trying to help to secure the freedom of the 57-year old missioner.

“These days we have felt the sympathy of so many people and this bodes well that it might be persuasive and lead to Father Bossi’s release,” Benedetti said.

Philippine authorities tagged Akiddin Abdusallam, a leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is negotiating peace with the government. Abdusallam was also implicated in many kidnappings-for-ransom in the South.

But the MILF, the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, said Abdusallam was kicked out long time ago because of his criminal past and has joined the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group.
Bossi is the third Italian priest kidnapped since 1998 in the southern Philippines.

Rogue MILF rebels kidnapped 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.

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

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.

“The faithful are still calling on the Lord to free him, hoping that his kidnappers and those trying to exploit the event for political and ideological purposes might heed their words,” PIME said.

The MILF which previously offered to help rescue Bossi said the kidnappers were demanding “tens of millions of pesos” in ransom. Other reports said Bossi’s captors have asked one million dollars in exchange for his freedom.

The military said Bossi is believed to be in Basilan island, where 14 soldiers searching for the priest were attacked and killed by Abu Sayyaf militants and MILF gunmen on July 10. Ten of those of killed were beheaded and mutilated, it said.

The MILF said there were no Abu Sayyaf militants involved in the fighting triggered by the intrusion of soldiers inside a rebel stronghold. (Mindanao Examiner)

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