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MANILA (Reuters) - Gunmen abducted an Irish Catholic missionary from a convent in the southern Philippines Sunday, police officials said, as they mobilised security forces to intercept the kidnappers who escaped by boat.
Michael Sinnott, 78, a Columban priest, was taken at gunpoint by six men who stormed a Columban missionary house in Pagadian City on the southern island of Mindanao, Angelo Sunglao, police chief in western Mindanao region, told reporters.
"We've alerted all our units as well as the military to be on the lookout and intercept the gunmen," Sunglao said, adding they were trying to establish the motive for the abduction.
"We can't speculate yet on who is behind the kidnapping, but the Abu Sayyaf is known to be operating near the area."
The Abu Sayyaf, a small Islamic militant group, is notorious for kidnapping and bomb attacks.
The suspects' getaway van was found a few blocks from the missionary house, Sunglao said, adding the kidnappers burnt the vehicle before boarding the boat. He said fishermen in the area saw the armed men speeding towards nearby Tukuran town on the same Zamboanga peninsula.
(Reporting by Manny Mogato; Editing by Rosemarie Francisco)