investigate the plight of persecuted Christians in the troubled region, new details emerged about the challenges he faces.
On Thursday, October 18, an Italian priest was kidnapped while celebrating mass in a church in the southern Philippines, the British Broadcasting Corporation reported.
Police was quoted as saying that unidentified gunmen seized Father Guiseppi Piarantoni in the coastal town of Dimataling in the province of Zamboanag del Sur and fled with him in a motorboat.
The kidnapping comes as government troops are pursuing militants of the Muslim Abu Sayyaf separatist group, which is holding 12 hostages, including the American missionary couple Martin and Gracia Burnham, from New Tribes Mission , on the nearby island of Basilan.
Both Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front are known to operate in the province and Christians are increasingly suffering, BosNewsLife correspondent Tarrazona reported earlier. He quoted military officials as saying that the Americans are being pressured by their captors to convert to Islam.
In addition several Christian farmers are believed to suffer the same plight, although Tarrazona reported they are holding on to their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord.
The Abu Sayyaf has also threatened to behead the missionary couple if the Government led military offensives against the group continue in Basilan, BosNewsLife learned. The group already beheaded American national Guillermo Sobero of California, and U.S. forensic experts confirmed this after a series of examination of his remains.
OSAMA BIN LADEN
A local daily described last week’s gun battle between Government troops and the separatist group as "the fiercest" so far. Abu Sayyaf-members were reportedly killed, and 17 soldiers were wounded in the latest clashes.
The Abu Sayyaf is believed to have strong links with suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden, and is reportedly the second most wanted terrorist network of the U.S Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
On Thursday, October 18, all four Osama bin Laden associates convicted in the 1998 U.S embassy bombings in Africa were sentenced to life in prison without parole, the Voice of America (VOA) said.
A federal judge handed down the sentences to Mohamed Sadeek Odeh, Mohamed al-Owhali, Khalfan Khamis Mohamed and Wadih El-Hage in a heavily guarded courtroom in New York City. Odeh’s lawyers say they will file an appeal of their client’s sentences.
Reporters saw U.S. marshals armed with shot-guns guarding the federal courthouse, just a short distance from the still smoking rubble of the World Trade Center.