Irish priest, 79, freed after being held for month in Philippines

A 79-year old Irish priest who was held in the Philippines for a month by a band of Islamic rebels spoke hours after his release of the kindness of his captors and his determination to continue his missionary work. Father Michael Sinnott, who had a quadruple heart bypass four years ago, was forced to climb up mountains and through swampy jungle, for 32 days before being freed yesterday.

“I am a bit old and I found hiking a bit difficult at times,” Father Sinnott said in Manila, where he was flown to meet the country’s president, Gloria Arroyo. “I think that they’d be glad to kidnap a younger man next time … I would like to thank everyone who helped to get me free and all my friends who prayed for me while I was in captivity.”

He was handed over to the Philippines army by representatives of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a rebel army that has been fighting a long-running guerrilla war for independence for the Philippines southern island of Mindanao. The MILF insisted that it had not kidnapped Father Sinnott, but negotiated his release from the original kidnappers — a rebel splinter group, or “lost command”.

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