Philippines arrests suspect in kidnap of Italian ex-priest


PAGADIAN, Philippines: Philippine authorities have arrested a man accused of kidnapping an Italian businessman who was held hostage for six months by Islamic militants, the military said Sunday.

Retired Catholic priest Rolando Del Torchio was abducted at his pizza restaurant in the southern city of Dipolog on Mindanao island last October. He was released unharmed on the Abu Sayyaf stronghold of Jolo island in April.

Sehar Muloc, also known in the area as Commander Red Eye, helped the kidnappers select and stalk their Italian target, regional military spokesman Major Filemon Tan told Agence France-Presse.

“He (Muloc) is linked with the Abu Sayyaf. We have no information on whether he is also a member,” Tan said referring to the kidnap group, which is also blamed for the deadliest bombings in the Philippines.

Muloc was arrested near the town of Naga, about halfway between Dipolog and Jolo, early Sunday and will be charged with kidnapping, Tan added.

Authorities had earlier said they suspected Del Torchio was abducted by local gunmen who handed him over to the Abu Sayyaf group in Jolo, 230 kilometers (143 miles) to the southwest.

Del Torchio, then 56, had worked as a missionary for the international organisation PIME in the south from 1998 before retiring in 2000 to set up his restaurant, colleagues told AFP shortly after he was abducted.

The Abu Sayyaf murdered a Canadian hostage in April but subsequently released 18 Indonesian and four Malaysian captives.

The group still holds another Canadian man, a Dutchman and a Norwegian, along with five Filipinos, the military said.

The kidnappers have threatened to kill either the Canadian or the Norwegian if a multi-million-dollar ransom is not paid by Monday. AFP



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