Philippine security forces have launched an operation on Thursday to locate the Italian Roman Catholic missionary who was kidnapped by gunmen in the southern Mindanao region.
The Italian priest, Rolando del Torchio was dragged by at least six armed men on Wednesday from his pizzeria at Dipolog city in Zamboanga del Norte province of the country.
Last month, two Canadian tourists, a Norwegian tourist and a Filipino woman were also abducted from a marina on Samal Island in Davao del Norte province, according to the city Police Chief Superintendent, Ranie Hachuela.
There is no information about the status of the four hostages.
Hachuela said they have security footage of some of the suspects, which can help in locating and capturing the kidnappers.
Based on the security footage, Leonor Rabino, a Dipolog city information officer said that one of the Torchio’s co-worker tried to help him as he was being abducted, but he failed and the kidnappers pointed a gun at him.
Philippine authorities deployed air force helicopters, navy patrol boats, army and police forces to hunt the suspects who are believed to be near the coastal areas.
Although no group has claimed responsibility for the abduction yet, the security officials launched several operations to hideouts of Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militants, including in the southern Sulu province, where the group has held hostages for ransom in the past.
Del Torchio was missionary for the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions which is an Italian catholic group with 500 members in 17 countries.
His colleague from the institute, Father Gianni Re said on the phone that "he's a very approachable person."
Re also pointed out that Mr.Torchio was also helping farmers to improve their skills on agriculture and setting up cooperatives in poor communities, in addition to his religious task in the region.
According to Re, Mr.Torchio continued his mission patiently although the institute was a target militants.
Three Catholic missioners from the institute have been kidnapped and two others killed in the past three decades.