November 11, 2009 / 9:29 PM / 10 years ago

Kidnapped Irish priest freed in Philippines

Kidnapped victim Michael Sinnott, a 78-year-old Columban priest, appears on a video holding a local newspaper dated Oct. 22 in a video released in Manila October 31, 2009. REUTERS/Stringer

MANILA (Reuters) - An Irish priest kidnapped in the southern Philippines a month ago was freed unharmed on Thursday, a senior church official and members of a Muslim rebel group said.

They said Michael Sinnott, a 78-year-old Columban priest who was snatched from the garden of a church on Oct 11, was handed over to police and government officials in the city of Zamboanga in the southern region of Mindanao shortly before dawn.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the largest Muslim rebel group in the Philippines, has been helping secure the release of the priest. Government officials have said he was kidnapped by armed men owing allegiance to a local rebel commander.

They had demanded a ransom of $2 million, but it was not immediately known if any money was paid.

Reporting by Manny Mogao; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan

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