Military knows priest’s location

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — A MAN claiming to represent the group holding 79-year-old Father Michael Sinnott made contact Thursday with his Roman Catholic mission, according to Western Mindanao Command chief Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mohammad Dolorfino.

Following the telephone call, Dolorfino said authorities believed that the 79-year-old priest was being held in the coastal town of Sultan Naga Dimaporo in Lanao del Norte province, where Muslim separatists are active.

Troops surrounded the area where Sinnott was held, and identified four of the six kidnappers, the AFP official said.

Dolorfino refused to elaborate on the conversation between the representative and Sinnott’s Missionary Society of St. Columban.

Dolorfino has urged the Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels, who have been fighting for a separate homeland for minority Muslims in the predominantly Catholic nation’s south, to cooperate in freeing Sinnott.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front leader Mohagher Iqbal promised to help Wednesday amid concern for Sinnott’s health.

The priest has recently undergone heart bypass surgery and did not have his medicines on him when gunmen dragged him away from the garden of his house.

“Our immediate concern now is the medication of Father Sinnott,” Dolorfino said.

Authorities were to distribute flyers last Thursday in the province and in Pagadian City, across the bay from where Sinnott was kidnapped on Sunday, with telephone numbers the kidnappers can call to arrange for medicine to be sent to Sinnott, Dolorfino said.

He said the kidnappers apparently took Sinnott to an area under the control of a local Moro rebel commander.

“The least he can do is to drive away the kidnappers if he is not involved, and the most he can do is to help us capture them,” Dolorfino said of the rebel commander.

He said the military have strengthened the “containment operation” to prevent the abductors from transferring the hostage to another location.