There has been almost nothing in the western press about this as far as I have seen. Ten Philippine marines were killed in military operations designed to obtain Bossi's release. The first article is from Malaya, the second from the Manila Bulletin. In the second article the kidnappers are identified as renegades from MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) a separatist Muslim group operating in Mindanao but the group self-identifies with the more radical Abu Sayyaf group often associated with Al Qaeda and responsible for many terrorist acts in South Asia.
The articles credit military pressure for the release but obviously it was the result of negotiation. Who knows what the kidnappers got. I imagine they did not just turn Bossi in to be nice!
So now we know a new way to stop smoking and get in shape. Get yourself captured by the Abu Sayyaf. Of course you might not survive the ordeal.
Gov’t says no ransom was paid, credits intense military pressure
BY RAYMOND AFRICA
ITALIAN priest Giancarlo Bossi was released Thursday night in Lanao del Norte 40 days after he was snatched by armed men in Payao, Zamboanga Sibugay last June 10.
In a press conference at Camp Cawa-Cawa in Zamboanga City yesterday morning, Bossi, 57, said his captors led him to the national highway in Karumatan town at around 9 p.m.
"We walked last night (Thursday) about two hours," Bossi, who apparently lost a lot of weight, said in a press conference presided by Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno.
Puno said Bossi’s release was due to the intense pressure by the combined 2,000 police and military operatives against his abductors.
He said there were demands for ransom but it was agreed in his talks with Italian ambassador Rubens Fedele, Calderon and Esperon to give nothing to the kidnappers.
Puno declined to give details of the release.
He said follow-up operations are underway for the capture of the kidnappers.
Bossi said his captors identified themselves as members of the Abu Sayyaf. He said he was treated well.
"From the beginning, they told me they were Abu Sayyaf and from the end they are admitting and they continue to say that they are Abu Sayyaf. So, I just tell you what they told me. I do not know if they are Abu Sayyaf, I don’t know if they are (any other group)," Bossi said.
"And the reason (for the kidnapping) according to them, is that because I am a priest…that was the reason for them to kidnap me just to have some ransom," he added.
He said his captors brought him to Lanao provinces where they stayed most of the time.
"They told me a lot of names but I tell you I didn’t memorize because they were many. I can tell you that one is Abu Kalid, Abu Jari, Abu Diya, but I (really can’t remember)," he said.
"You know when you are in the forest, they didn’t tell me what’s going on. I just told them that I’ll just memorize your faces and if I see them around I will go to the police and say ‘that was one of my kidnappers,’" he said.
He said he had to quit smoking so his body could withstand mountain climbing.
"I used to smoke a lot, but one night we were walking and we have to climb a mountain and we reached the top of the mountain my breathing was very heavy so, I told myself if I want to survive. So walang usok so I have to keep my breathing so I said better stop smoking," he said in a mixture of English, and the Visayan and Tagalog dialects.
He said that he will still continue with his duties in Payao.
"I want to go back to Payao and help the people there," Bossi said.
"I was assured by my kidnappers that they would not get me again," he said.
"I have already talked to my family. I told them I would not go back to Italy. I want to stay here for a while."
Bossi said he was only given salted rice and sometimes a piece of dried salted fish.
He said he has already forgiven his captors.
"I used to pray for them every night but my prayers. I hope that one day they can go home with their family and there is supper around the table in a peaceful way, and I told them that I used to pray every night," he said.
Puno said the after-mission report is still being finalized along with the names of those responsible for the abduction.
He said at least 14 men were directly involved in the abduction. He said nine were able to escape when authorities were closing in on them.
He did not say if the five others have been arrested.
"The degree of cooperation between the AFP and PNP resulted in a really forceful operation that in our opinion forced the hand of the kidnappers to release Father Bossi immediately as they would have endangered themselves had they chosen not to do so," he said.
Asked if the Abu Sayyaf Group was involved in the kidnapping, Puno said he does not want to preempt the report charge sheet that the police are preparing.
Puno said Bossi’s release would surely raise speculations that it was part of a grand design to sanitize the image of President Arroyo leading to her SONA on Monday.
"Bahala na ang mga tao na mag-speculate kung ano ang mga sasabihin nila. But as you can see we would never sacrifice a single minute of misery for Father Bossi in order to gain any propaganda mileage," he said.
In an interview in Malacañang, Bossi said he feels responsible for the deaths of the 14 Marine soldiers who were conducting search operations for him in Tipo-Tipo in Basilan last July 10.
"I feel so sorry because if I was not kidnapped they will be still alive. They went there because of me, so when the General last night related to me, I feel so sorry really and sad," he said.
He said he learned about the fate of the Marines when he was brought to Camp Cawa-Cawa for debriefing and medical check up.
Fr. Bossi thanked everyone who helped in securing his release, adding he never experienced any sense of hopelessness while in captivity.
"As a free man, the first thing (I’d do) is to thank God that I can enjoy life again. And the second is, as a free man, now I can go around and talk to the people and be really free," he said.
Fedele expressed his government’s gratitude to the Philippines during the courtesy call of Fr. Bossi on Arroyo.
"When I was in Payao, I’ve seen the tremendous work on the ground done by the Armed Forces and the police. I was really astonished and I was sure that it was just a question of time and we would be able to have Father Bossi back with us," he said.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines welcomed the news of Bossi’s release with the hope that his abduction will not happen again.
In a statement, the bishops said they were thankful for the peaceful ending of weeks of worries and drama.
"Foreign missionaries are giving a great service to the people in far-flung corners of the country especially in Mindanao," CBCP president Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said.
Lagdameo noted the sacrifice of the 14 Marine personnel who died in an ambush after their futile search and rescue mission of Bossi in Basilan last week.
Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo Valles thanked those who helped in facilitating the release of Bossi.
"We remember and we thank those who untiringly and patiently worked for the safe release of Fr. Bossi, those who spent hard days and cold nights unceasingly following through the days and weeks of his captivity. They have accomplished a truly arduous mission," said Valles.
In Italy, Prime Minister Romano Prodi interrupted government talks on pensions to announce Bossi’s release.
"I am moved and happy. Today was his mother’s birthday, a very happy coincidence," Prodi told a news conference.
Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said Pope Benedict XVI was filled with "great joy" upon hearing the news about Bossi’s release.
Bossi’s mother organization, the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), it its website posted a large, bold lettered announcement "GIANCARLO E’ LIBERO!!!"
AFP public information office chief Lt. Col. Bartolome Bacarro said with Bossi’s release, efforts of the military-led Task Force Bossi, which includes units from the PNP, will be unrelenting against Bossi’s captors. – With Jocelyn Montemayor, Gerard Naval and Victor Reyes
This is from Manila Bulletin.
Fr. Bossi freed by captors
Saturday, July 21, 2007
No ransom paid to kidnappers, gov’t officials say
Rogue MILF elements behind kidnapping – police
ZAMBOANGA CITY — After a month and a half in captivity, Moro gunmen released Italian priest Fr. Giancarlo Bossi Thursday night somewhere in the border of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur.
Western Mindanao Police Regional Office director Chief Supt. Jaime Caringal said he was informed that Bossi was released by "Commander Khidi," a rogue leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
"It was a negotiated release without any ransom paid," Caringal said.
He said the Italian priest was turned over by his abductors to authorities in Lanao del Norte province.
Bossi was immediately brought to the Western Mindanao regional police headquarters in Zamboanga City where Italian Embassy officials were waiting.
He was later brought to Manila and presented to President Arroyo in Malacañang.
"I was treated well with respect," was the first statement uttered by Bossi before mediamen.
He added: "It never crossed my mind that they wanted to kill me. The food wasn’t great with only rice, salt and dried fish but I also stopped smoking since June 27."
Religious officials in Mindanao joyously welcomed the release of the Italian priest, who looked haggard and tired and seemed to have lost weight.
Bossi was released in time for his mother’s 87th birthday last Thursday.
From a hinterland area where he was held captive, Bossi was accompanied by his captors in a two-hour walk to the highway at Barangay Karomotan, Lanao del Norte. At around 9 p.m. they reached the highway where a passenger jeepney took them to the base of government negotiators led by former Tuburan Mayor Hajarun Jamiri.
The 57-year-old priest was immediately transported to Zamboanga City, arriving here at around 3 a.m. yesterday. He was wearing a Moro pajama and turtleneck shirt with days’ old beard and muddy feet. He was immediately examined by a police physician who later declared him in good health except for high blood pressure.
Bossi took a medicine and was told to rest at Caringal’s quarters.
He then appeared in a press conference at about 10 a.m. He told newsmen that he was kept in a secluded area in the border of the two Lanao provinces. He said he was not brought to Basilan as earlier reported.
"All the while, I was kept in Lanao. We always move from one area to another to avoid government forces," Bossi said.
"I experienced hunger while in the hands of the kidnappers. As you see, I lost a lot of pounds. There are countless times during the days that we ate rice with salt only from breakfast to dinner. Water was scarce and the continuous rain made me sick," Bossi narrated.
He said he was not able to smoke a cigarette in captivity and was not able to sleep and eat properly.
"I prayed every now and then that I will be freed the soonest possible time, but I waited so long in the hands of the kidnappers. They didn’t hurt me, but I don’t really know what were they thinking," Bossi said.
Bossi said the kidnappers were good to him but he was not told why he was abducted last June 10 while officiating a mass in Payao, Zamboanga del Sur.
Bossi asked his immediate superiors here yesterday to allow him to return to Payao in Zamboanga Sibugay province to continue serving the people of the municipality.
"My heart is still in Payao and I am not afraid of returning back to my parish church," Bossi told his superiors.
Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno affirmed that there was no ransom paid to Bossi’s kidnappers, saying that the success in the recovery of Bossi was made through an extensive rescue operation carried out by soldiers and policemen in Western and Central Mindanao.
Puno, together with Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Oscar Calderon flew to this city yesterday to fetch Bossi.
The PNP described Bossi’s kidnappers as a "(Moro) lost command group" or rogue elements of the MILF who operate in Western Mindanao area. It is led by Waning Abdusalam, brother of MILF commander Akiddin Abdusalam alias Commander Kiddie. Two of his cohorts were identified as Putot Jakaria, Ogis Jakaria.
Meanwhile, despite the release of the Italian priest, air, ground and naval forces are set to attack targets in Zambonga Peninsula and other parts in the southern island, particularly in Basilan province, a top military official on Friday said. (with a report by Joel C. Atencio)