Kidnapped Italian priest released in Nigeria with 2 others
MILAN (AP) — An Italian priest kidnapped at gunpoint in Nigeria was released after five days and was in good condition, Italy’s foreign minister said Wednesday.
The Rev. Maurizio Pallu, 63, was released late Tuesday, five days after being kidnapped in Benin City. Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano told Italian Radio Capital that the priest was returning to the Nigerian capital of Abuja, where he has been working for the last three years.
There were no immediate details on the identity of the captors or the circumstances of the priest’s release.
In an interview on Vatican radio, Pallu said he was kidnapped with two Nigerians and all three were released together.
Pallu said the kidnappers took them to an isolated spot in a forest.
“They had little to eat, and they gave us what they had. We drank water from a stream, a brownish water,” he said. “In any case, we are alive.”
Pallu said it was the second time he was kidnapped in the past year, but hoped to continue working in Nigeria “because you defeat the demons by staying here.” He said he was kidnapped briefly in October 2016, but released after about 90 minutes.
Kidnappings for ransom are common in Nigeria, with ordinary residents and even schoolchildren targeted as well as foreigners. Victims usually are freed unharmed after a ransom is paid, though security forces have rescued a few high-profile abductees.
Other foreigners kidnapped in the West African nation this year include two German archaeologists, who were freed by their captors, and two Turkish nationals, whom local police said they rescued. The two were employees of a construction company.
Pallu had worked as a lay missionary before entering a seminary in Rome in 1988, Italian paper Avvenire reported. He was later a parish priest in the Dutch city of Haarlem before being assigned to the archdiocese in the Nigerian capital of Abuja.