Monday, 19 October 2009


Fears are growing for an Irish missionary kidnapped in the southern Philippines, where militants are fighting the army for a separate Islamic state.
Father Michael Sinnott, 79, was seized yesterday at 7.30pm local time (11.30 BST) by six gunmen from his gated compound in Pagadian City, on the southern island of Mindanao. The raiders reportedly duped staff at Columban House, home to 47 missionaries, to gain entry and captured the priest as he was strolling around the gardens. He runs a school for children with hearing difficulties.
Angelo Sunglao, chief superintendent of the western Mindanao police, said that the attackers bundled the priest into the back of a van and drove to a nearby beach, where a fisherman saw them escape in a speed boat heading towards the town of Tukuran.
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnap, although it is feared it may be the work of an al-Qaida linked guerrilla group, Abu Sayyaf, which has been fighting the Philippines army since the 1990s.
Speaking to the Associated Press Sunglao, said a hunt for the kidnappers was under way. "We can't speculate yet on who is behind the kidnapping, but the Abu Sayyaf is known to be operating near the area," he added.
The group, thought to number around 400, is one of several militant Islamist groups in the majority Roman Catholic Philippines. It has kidnapped dozens of foreign aid workers, missionaries and tourists in the south and was blamed for the country's most deadly bomb attack, on a ferry in 2004 that killed more than 100 people.
Pat O'Donoghue, the Columbans' director in the Philippines, said that Fr Michael had had a heart bypass four years ago and needed regular medication. "He's a very robust man for his age, but if he does not have his medication this would be a very serious for him."
Fr Michael has spent the past four years running a school for children with hearing difficulties. He has lived in the Philippines since 1976.