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Irish priest kidnapped in Philippines freed

Released Irish priest Michael Sinnott, center, is escorted at a military airbase in Zamboanga City on Thursday.
Released Irish priest Michael Sinnott, center, is escorted at a military airbase in Zamboanga City on Thursday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Father Michael Sinnott unhurt and undergoing a medical evaluation
  • Sinnott kidnapped last month in the southern Philippines by Moro Islamic Liberation Front
  • Group has fought for decades for an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines
  • Philippine military insisted it did not pay a ransom for his release
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(CNN) -- An Irish priest kidnapped last month in the southern Philippines was freed Thursday.

Father Michael Sinnott was unhurt and was undergoing a medical evaluation, said the Missionary Society of St. Columban, to which he belongs.

The Philippine military insisted it did not pay a ransom for Sinnott's release, the society said.

Sinnott was kidnapped on October 11 from his missionary home on the southern island of Mindanao. He was out on an evening stroll when four or five men burst into his garden, the society said.

The men drove him to a beach in a pickup, burned the vehicle and got away -- with Sinnott in tow -- in a speed boat.

The society said the separatist group Moro Islamic Liberation Front turned over the priest to government authorities early Thursday.

The group has fought for decades for an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines.

"We're stepping up to develop our peace and security program in the area, to prevent similar act of terrorism happening again in the future," said Cerge Remonde, the spokesman for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The spokesman said the priest met with the president Thursday.

"We leave the options to him whether he wants to go back to Ireland or stay in Philippines. It's his personal decision," he said.

 
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