Rome, Sep 19 (IANS/AKI) Italian Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi is “closely following” the case of Italian Cathlic missionary priest Pierluigi Maccalli who was reported kidnapped in Niger, the Foreign Ministry said.
The kidnapping became known after an Indian priest managed to escape the armed gunmen who seized Maccalli on Monday night.
“Milanesi is in constant contact with the foreign ministry’s crisis unit and with state institutions and has been closely following the kidnapping of Father Maccalli, a member of the Congregation of the Society of African Missions of the Diocese of Crema,” the Ministry said.
The Italian embassy in Niger’s capital Niamey has made a formal request to local authorities “to give top priority to solving the case” and “avoid taking initiatives that could put Father Maccalli’s safety at risk”, a Ministry statement said.
The area has been in a state of emergency for some months due to the presence of terrorists from neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso.
Based on the testimony of an Indian priest who managed to escape, armed gunmen entered the village at 9.30 p.m., seized Maccalli and took his computer and mobile phone, The Society of African Missions was cited as telling Fides.
Fides said it heard from unnamed sources that the priest was probably taken across the border to Burkina Faso where jihadist groups have set up bases in a vast forested area.
Maccalli organised meetings against local practices like circumcision and female genital mutilation and this “may be one of the reasons for the kidnapping, according to local sources”, Fides said.