Irish priest seized by gunmen in the Philippines

Monday, October 12, 2009

Father Michael Sinnott, an elderly priest from Ireland, has been seized by gunmen on Mindanao Island in the Philippines. He was taken from his residence on Sunday at gunpoint. The gunmen fled in a minivan, and later boarded a boat.

Father Sinnott, who was a priest for the Missionaries of St Columban had heart surgery four years ago, according to friends.

"He's a very robust man for his age, but he has had a heart bypass four years ago," said director of the Columban Missionaries, Father Pat O’Donoghue. "The concern that I would have is that if he does not have his medication this would be very serious thing for him, especially given the shock."

No group has claimed responsibility for the taking of Father Sinnott, but speculation suggests the militant group Abu Sayyaf was responsible. Police Chief for the western region of Mindanao, Angelo Sunglao, said that “Abu Sayyaf is known to be operating near the area."

Despite being one of the smaller militant groups, Abu Sayyaf is also regarded as one of the deadliest and is known for kidnaps of foreign aid workers and tourists. They were responsible for the 2004 bomb attack on a ferry that killed over 100 people.