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Rebel Pullout From Search For Kidnapped Priest ‘Not A Problem,’ Superior Says

ICC Note: PIME spokesperson says he doubts that MILF’s withdrawl from the search for Fr. Bossi will have any significant impact other than reducing the amount of unconfirmed information he receives.

7/4/07 Philippines (UCAN) – The regional superior of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) sees no problem with the withdrawal of Islamic rebels who had been searching with armed forces troops for abducted Italian Father Giancarlo Bossi.

“If the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) pull out its troops, it’s okay. There is no problem,” Father Gianni Sandalo told UCA News on July 3. The MILF announced that day its decision to withdraw its troops from the area where the southern provinces of Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte meet…

For Father Sandalo, the MILF’s role is not evident. “I don’t know if the MILF really works with the military. I don’t have evidence in hand,” the PIME superior told UCA News.

He noted that except for offering “unconfirmed” information, he does not know how “involved” the MILF is in locating his confrere. Only the people in Ipil town, 770 kilometers southeast of Manila , and the military there “are working” to locate Father Bossi, he asserted.

Armed men seized the missing priest on June 10 near his parish in Payao, Zamboanga Sibugay province. Ipil is the capital of the province on the Zamboanga peninsula, which lies west of the Lanao provinces…

Later that day, General Hermogenes Esperon, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines , told reporters in Manila that the military has received “good leads” on Father Bossi and his abductors, but the general refrained from giving details. Esperon said the military is deploying “as many forces as needed” to recover Father Bossi.

Father Sandalo admitted he is “quite confused” about all the information coming from the military. The superior cited a military report that said Father Bossi is alive but refused to disclose the identity of the source of the information.

“We don’t need this kind of information,” Father Sandalo said, adding what is needed is solid “proof of life.” He stressed that as proof, he wanted to see Father Bossi’s picture or letter and receive a call from him.

“A lot of people are giving me wrong information, and I should not trust anybody,” Father Sandalo said.

Nonetheless, the superior believes his kidnapped confrere is alive and has “enough strength, courage and faith” to make it through the situation.

“I’m not in a hurry. I believe that the case will be solved and time will help us little by little,” Father Sandalo said….

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