Backers of Islamic Group Believed to Be Behind Kidnapping

DAVAO CITY, Philippines, OCT. 19, 2001 ( Sympathizers of the Islamic Movement for Moorish Liberation are believed to be responsible for the kidnapping this week of an Italian missionary priest.

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Preliminary contacts have been established with relatives of the kidnappers of Dehonian Father Giuseppe Pierantoni. He was kidnapped Wednesday after celebrating Mass in his parish on the island of Mindanao.

The news was confirmed by Dehonian Father Jeremiah Sheehy in Manila and by Bishop Zacharias Jimenez of Pagadian, the diocese where the kidnapped priest´s parish is located. The bishop insisted: «The kidnapping is the work of vandals of the area, groups without an ideology who want money.»

Father Sheehy said on Manila television that the congregation will respect the policy of the Philippine Church not to pay a ransom in such cases.

The Dehonians have signed a statement stating: «By your actions you [kidnappers] harm many individuals and bring discredit on the Philippine people, both Muslims as well as Christians, known for their friendliness and hospitality to foreigners.»

On Thursday, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo announced that she will lift the moratorium on the death penalty, and extend it to those responsible for kidnappings.

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