Thursday, November 12, 2009


Father Sinnott freed by abductors

Posted in
UPDATE) MANILA, Philippines -- Irish priest Fr. Michael Sinnot was freed by his captors at dawn today in Zamboanga City, authorities said.

Sinnott, 79, was turned over by members of the GRP ceasefire committee and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Task Force around 4:20 a.m., GRP panel head Rafael Seguis said.

"Nandito sya ngayon nagpapahinga mukhang malakas naman (He is strong and taking a rest)," Seguis told a radio interview.

He said Sinnott will be flown to Manila today and presented to President Arroyo. Maj.Gen. Benjamin Dolorfino, Army's Western Mindanao Command, said there was no ransom paid to Sinnott's abductors.

"Hindi pa rin natin na masasabi kasi ongoing pa ang investigation ng ating kapulisan about that," Dolorfino said when asked if an MILF group was indeed behind the kidnapping.

He added that a manhunt operation is now underway for the foreign missionary's kidnappers. Sinnott will be boarding a Fokker plane to Manila.

Sinnott was snatched by a group of gunmen in Pagadian City last Oct. 11.

He was released on the day of the arrival of US State Department Secretary Hillary Clinton

to Manila for a two-day meeting with President Arroyo.

Irish Foreign Minister Micheal Martin said late Wednesday the Rev. Michael Sinnott "displayed great forbearance ... in spite of his age and difficult health."

"He is clearly a man of great resilience, strength and courage and we wish him well as he seeks to recover from such a trying ordeal," said Irish President Mary McAleese, who called Sinnott's freedom the answer to the shared prayers of millions in both countries.

And Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen said the government would help the priest enjoy "a speedy reunion with his family and friends."

In Dublin, Martin declined to detail how the priest won his freedom other than to call the achievement "the successful conclusion of a major diplomatic effort by the Irish and Philippine governments." He also credited the US government, other European Union nations with embassies in Manila, and the International Committee of the Red Cross with playing a role.

The Philippine government said it had received demands from Sinnott's captors for $2 million in ransom but, like the Irish, stressed that paying anything would only encourage more kidnappings in rebel-threatened Mindanao.

Martin said paying a ransom "would only have jeopardized the vital work of aid workers and missionaries around the world. It would also place other Irish citizens in danger."

At least two other Irish Catholic priests have been targeted by kidnappers in the southern Philippines. In 1987 a priest was held for 12 days by Islamic militants before being released unharmed, but four years later another priest was shot to death when he resisted his abductors.

In June 2007, kidnappers with links to Moro rebels held an Italian priest for 33 days.

'Kidnappers not MILF men'

Sinnott said his captors do not belong the MILF, the Muslim rebel group previously accused by authorities as the one behind the Irish priest’s abduction.

During a media briefing after his arrival in Manila, Sinnott said his kidnappers described themselves as native Lumads driven away from their lands.

He also said his kidnappers have treated him well during the one month he spent in captivity.

"They are mostly very kind to me," Sinnott added. - With AP