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Kidnapped Ugandan priest’s remains ID’d in Mexico

November 14, 2014

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The remains of a Ugandan priest kidnapped more than six months ago have been found in a mass grave in southern Mexico, Roman Catholic authorities said Friday.

Father John Ssenyondo, 55, was among 13 bodies in a clandestine grave discovered Nov. 2 in the town of Ocotitlan, said Victor Aguilar, vicar of the Chilpancingo-Chilapa diocese in the southern state of Guerrero.

Dental records were used to identify the priest, who was born Dec. 25, 1958, in Masaka, Uganda. He came to the diocese about five years ago.

Aguilar said Ssenyondo, a member of the Combonian order, was abducted April 30 in the town of Santa Cruz after saying Mass, when a group of people in an SUV intercepted his car.

“Apparently they took him out of the car and threw him in the trunk,” Aguilar said.

“We don’t know the motive,” he added. “You know violence is widespread in the state.”

Guerrero is the same state where 43 teachers college students disappeared in late September at the hands of local police, a case that has sparked widespread protests. Prosecutors say police turned the students over to drug gang members who apparently killed the youths, burned the bodies and dumped the ashes in a river.

Aguilar said the discovery was not related to the search for the students.

The diocese said another of its priests was abducted in Guerrero last year and freed after the church paid a ransom of about $3,300. Three more have had to make extortion payments to avoid being kidnapped. In September, another priest was murdered in the state.

“That is the risk we all run,” said Rogelio Busto Juarez, superior of the Combonian order in Mexico, adding that the church community was stunned by the news of Ssenyondo’s death. “He knew he could meet his fate among the people with whom he decided to remain.”