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Philippines : Military Chief Says Kidnapped Italian Priest Is Alive

ICC Note: The Philippine military says it is confident that Fr. Bossi is still alive, but is unwilling to give its reasons fro that belief.

By Jim Gomez

7/2/07 PHILIPPINES (AP) – The Philippine military chief said Monday (July 2nd) there are strong indications an Italian priest kidnapped by suspected Muslim insurgents last month is alive and more troops have been deployed to join a massive search.

Gen. Hermogenes Esperon said he was confident that Rev. Giancarlo Bossi is still alive but declined to provide details to avoid disrupting efforts to free him or force the kidnappers to move the priest to another location.

“We’re confident that he’s still alive,” Esperon told The Associated Press.

“We have indications of life but we do not want to discuss the details because it could give away the location,” he told reporters separately. “By giving away the location, it could also give the identities of the people working on it…”

Security officials said they suspected Muslim gunmen not linked to the MILF may be behind the abduction.

Hundreds of army troops, backed by military aircraft and sniffer dogs, have been combing thick mountain forests for weeks. A U.S. spy plane was deployed shortly after the abduction to scour the seas off Zamboanga Sibugay.

Esperon said additional troops were inserted in one region but declined to specify the area “so that the captors would not transfer (Bossi) to another place.”

Bossi’s fellow Italian priests in the southern Philippines from the Rome-based Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions have said they have not been contacted by the abductors.

Italy said it was sending Margherita Boniver, a prominent lawmaker and veteran of several humanitarian missions, to the Philippines on Tuesday (July 3rd) to help work for Bossi’s release….

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