Kidnapped Priest released in the Philippines

Manila (AsiaNews) – The Irish priest kidnapped a month ago in Pagadian (Mindanao) was released this morning before dawn at 4:25 in the coastal village of Sangalo. The Philippines and Ireland said they had not paid any ransom. The kidnappers had demanded the payment of 2 million U.S. dollars. Delivered by a group of the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) to a military base in Zamboanga, Fr. Michael Sinnot said he was treated well by his captors, though he had to endure many difficulties when moving by sea and walking in the jungle that the rebels used as cover to escape army troops.

The priest says he has no ill feeling towards his kidnappers. "They treated me well … I was given lectures on their ideology, but for the rest, I was treated well."

Fr. Michael Sinnott, 79, a Columban missionary, was kidnapped on 11 October in the courtyard of his church by an armed group. Initially, authorities had suspected that the group belonged to the terrorist organization Abu Sayyaf or the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the armed group fighting for autonomy in Mindanao.

Fr. Sinnot has ruled that his kidnappers belonged to the MILF. "I am very sure," said the priest, after his release, "My captors were real nomads, not MILF." He also said that the reason for his kidnapping was for money in ransom.

In fact is was MILF – which has offered to help the army – that delivered the freed, priest, whose suffered precarious health conditions and had undergone by-pass surgery.

At the end of October, the kidnappers released a video of the priest, in which they demanded a ransom of 2 million dollars. The Philippine authorities and the Irish state say they did not pay the ransom.

General Ben Dolorfino, has applauded the commitment of MILF and stated that the release of Fr Sinnot is a “positive measure for the upcoming peace negotiations".

MILF, after decades of insurgency in the south, had opened peace talks with the government, but they were suspended last year due to a series of accidents caused by rebel groups in Mindanao.

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