Philippine rebels release Italian priest
Muslim rebels in the Philippines released Italian priest Giuseppe "Beppe" Pierantoni early Monday morning after holding him captive since October 17. The rebels apparently abandoned Pierantoni and fled when a special police operations group raided their camp.

"It was, I think, a miracle of prayer what happened to me," the priest told reporters in Manila. "I am really very, very thankful and very grateful to God and also to the Filipino government. I believe that after six months of living in the forest trying to escape … the police and the army, it was a miracle to be freed and without any harm, without any particular suffering."

To celebrate the miracle, he's going to Italy for a week, then it's back to the dangerous island of Mindanao. "I want to return to the Philippines," he said. "It's unlikely that they would kidnap the same priest twice."

Though Pierantoni's captors operate in a similar area and with similar motivations and tactics to the Abu Sayyaf group holding American missionaries Martin and Gracia Burnham, they are two different terrorist organizations. The "Pentagon" group that held the priest is reportedly an offshoot of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). (That group, which is in peace talks with the Philippine government, denied any involvement with Pierantoni's captivity.)

The Philippine government has adamantly denied that any ransom was paid for the priest, but today's Philippine Inquirer reports otherwise. Both military and police sources have confirmed that money was given to the Pentagon group on multiple occasions for Pierantoni's release. Pierantoni also confirmed the payment, and said he was saddened by it.

Nevertheless, to the Philippine government, the ...

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