[English; Afrikaans; français]
Article by Marc Aupiais
The Police in the largely Catholic Philippines, have announced the kidnapping of what SkyNews calls a 79 year old (turning 80 years old in December- but whom BBC says is 78 years old) Irish Roman Catholic Missionary, reportedly by Islamic separatist militants. Fr Michael Sinnott, was kidnapped on the evening (19h30 Local Time) of Sunday the 11th of October, by the six (6) gunmen who forced him from his home's private garden, near Pagadian City, on the island of Mindanao, in the Zamboanga del Sur Province, according to the Police Commissioner, Angelo Sumlao.
Fr Sinnott was taken away in a minivan or pickup truck, a vehicle which was later found to be burnt, after being abandoned by the hostage takers. They then allegedly fled in a small boat, likely a speed boat, according to eyewitness reports.
Major General Ben Dolorfino, claims that the priest has since (on Monday) been spotted by what is known to be a militant stronghold in the area of Lanao del Sur. Military personnel were not immediately dispatched to rescue the priest, who had- prior the kidnapping- been caring for children with hearing disabilities. Colleagues fear he will not survive the ordeal, due to his heart condition. He had a heart by-pass a few years ago.
The police suspect the Al Quaeda sympathetic group: Abi Sayyaf of the kidnapping, another suspect being the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The MILF however, has denied involvement and offered to try find the priest. The priest belongs to the Columban missionaries. Abi Sayyaf, founded in 1990, is one of the smallest, and most violent of the separatist rebel groups. According to the BBC, it is blamed for a recent bomb attack, an attack on a ferry- in which about one hundred human beings, died.
The Philippine government has long been in a bitter civil war, with separatist militants, who desire to create an independent Islamic state in the South of the Country. The area where the priest was stationed was not one of the safest in the Philippines. Kidnappings by rebels are common in areas of the country.
Archbishop Mgr Emmanuel Cabajar, of Pagadian, warned against speculation that the Islamic militants were responsible for the kidnapping.
According to the BBC,
"The Philippines director of the Columban missionaries, Father Pat O'Donoghue, said Father Michael was "robust for his age" but had undergone a heart bypass operation four years ago.
"The concern that I would have is that if he does not have his medication this would be very serious thing for him, especially given the shock," Father Pat told the PA news agency.
"It must be a very shocking thing to find yourself bundled into a car and taken away.""
(BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation] (Secular; Governmental; British / (UK) United Kingdom) 12 / 10 | October / 2009)
It is uncertain whether or not this priest in particular was targeted, or if he was targeted as a priest or not, it is though likely the kidnapping is for ransom.