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Gunmen seize Irish priest in Pagadian City

(Updated 3:38 p.m.) Unidentified armed men abducted a 79-year-old Irish Catholic missionary in Pagadian City Sunday night, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and the Philippine military said Monday. Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command Maj. David Hontiveros identified the latest kidnap victim in southern Philippines as Michael Sinnott, 79, of the Columban Missionaries. About 7:20 p.m. Sunday, six armed men barged into the Columban House in Gates District in Pagadian City and took the foreign missionary with them, Hontiveros said. "The suspects forced the priest onto a mini-van and headed towards Sta. Lucia (district), where they burned the mini-van and transferred to a boat then fled," Hontiveros said, adding that "intelligence operatives are hot on the heels of the six kidnappers." As of posting time, no ransom demand has been made in exchange for the release of Sinnott. No group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. But Maj. Gen. Romeo Lustetica, commander of the Army's 1st Infantry Division, suspected that kidnappers abducted Sinnott for money. "Most probably they wanted money out of their actions. Imagine a priest at 78... kikidnapin nila (they would kidnap) for what?" Lustetica said. Lustetica said the military, together with the police and the local government officials, are currently meeting in order to come up with a solution. He added that all units of the military have already been alarmed and all checkpoints have been alerted. The military have likewise deployed sea patrols as initial solution to the problem. In a statement posted on the website of the Navan-based Columban Missionaries, the order said Sinnott was taking an evening stroll in his garden when he was seized by the gunmen. The CBCP said three of the convent’s employees were about to close the gate when a man pushed the gate and said he wanted to talk to Sinnott. Witnesses said “three or four other men" suddenly barged in and forced Sinnott into a vehicle, and brought him to an unknown destination. Local authorities eventually found the vehicle in the abduction abandoned in the city’s coastal area. Shocker The kidnapping of Sinnott shocked Columban regional director Fr. Patrick O'Donoghue, who said they never expected such an incident to happen in Pagadian City. "He was reassigned to the Philippines in 1980 or 1981," Fr. O’Donoghue said in an article on the CBCP news site. [See: Irish Catholic priest kidnapped in Pagadian] O’Donoghue said Sinnott has been working in the Philippines for the past 40 years. He said he is worried because Sinnott has a heart condition and he did not have his medication when he was abducted. "Pagadian Bishop Emmanuel Cabajar is on his ground and has coordinated with us and other agencies," the regional superior said. - with Aie Balagtas See, GMANews.TV