Yesterday, on October 11, 2009 was kidnapped an Irish missionary, from the Society of St. Columban, Fr. Michael Sinnott (80).
The attack took place around 7 pm (local time) when the priest was reciting Vespers at home.
A witness, Marieta Burok, said six kidnappers threw the clergyman into a waiting van that was subsequently found torched near the village of Santa Lucia.
They then took a small motorised boat and left in direction of Lanao del Norte province.
Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front are the main suspects.
“We can’t speculate yet on who is behind the kidnapping, but the militant group Abu Sayyaf is known to be operating near the area,” Regional police commander Chief Superintendent Angelo Sunglao, said.
In the meantime, Mgr Emmanuel Cabajar, archbishop of Pagadian, has appealed to the kidnappers to immediately release of Father Sinnott because of his poor health. The clergyman had heart surgery last July.
Born in Barnatown (Wexford) in 1929, Father Sinnot has been in the Philippines for the past 40 years.
Described as ‘jolly” by his staff, the elderly clergyman is fluent in a number of languages and is well loved among the population, someone without an enemy.
Father Sinnott is the third Columban priest to be kidnapped. In 1997, Father Des Hartford was abducted by Islamic militants and held for 12 days. In 2001, Father Rufus Hally, was shot dead during an attempted abduction.
Here is a chronology of the highest-profile kidnappings carried out by the Abu Sayyaf, or gangs linked to it:
September 1998: Italian priest Luciano Benedetti was kidnapped and released after eight weeks in captivity.
April 2000: Abu Sayyaf militants launched a daring cross-border raid, abducting 21 European and Asian hostages from a resort in Sipadan, Malaysia. All were freed one after the other in a year-long hostage crisis that also saw many foreign journalists covering the crisis being kidnapped and released.
August 2000: Jeffrey Schilling, an American convert to Islam, walked into an Abu Sayyaf lair on Jolo island after marrying a Filipino Muslim woman he met on the Internet. The bride turned out be related to an Abu Sayyaf rebel. He was rescued by the military after more than six months.
May 2001: Abu Sayyaf rebels raided the Dos Palmas beach resort on Palawan island, abducting 20 people, including American missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham, and compatriot Guillermo Sobero. Sobero was beheaded the following month, while Martin Burnham and a Filipina nurse also held captive were killed a year later in a military rescue. Gracia was freed in the rescue operation. The other 16 hostages were released earlier after ransoms were paid.
October 17, 2001: an SCJ confrere Fr. Giuseppe Pierantoni was kidnapped by men with links to Abu Sayyaf. He was freed after six months in captivity.
June 2007: Italian priest Giancarlo Bossi of the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions was kidnapped by men with ties to the Abu Sayyaf. He was freed a month later.
June 2008: Popular local television news anchor Ces Drilon and two crew members were seized and held for several days while working on a story about the Abu Sayyaf.
January 15, 2009: International Committee of the Red Cross workers Andreas Notter of Switzerland, Eugenio Vagni of Italy and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba were kidnapped while on a humanitarian mission on Jolo island. Notter and Lacaba were freed in April, while Vagni was released in July.
Fr. Michael Sinnott is a big friend of all SCJs, especially those working in Pagadian area. Let us remember him in our daily prayers that nothing will happen to him and very soon will be released.