Suspected terrorists kidnapped an Italian priest in Nigeria on Thursday during the priest’s visit to a town in the southern region of the country.
A group of armed men stopped Father Maurizio Pallù along with four of his companions in the city of Benin, robbed them, and kidnapped Pallù, according to Italian news agency Ansa. Authorities in the area are investigating the kidnapping as a terrorist act, according to Crux Now. Papal spokesman Greg Burke announced Friday via twitter that Pope Francis was aware of Pallù’s kidnapping and “is praying for him.”
Papa Francesco è stato informato del sacerdote italiano rapito in Nigeria, don Maurizio Pallù, e sta pregando per lui.
— Greg Burke (@GregBurkeRome) October 13, 2017
Pallù, originally from Florence, was a missionary in Nigeria for three years. He is the second priest to be kidnapped in the area this year, as Jesuit Father Samuel Okwuidegbe was kidnapped on the outskirts of Benin on April 18. While the region is predominantly Christian, government corruption, armed gangs, and violent crime are rampant in the area, according to Crux. Some Italian newspapers speculated that Boko Haram kidnapped Pallù, though Islamic militants are more prevalent to the north.
The Rome Anti-Counterterrorism Prosecutor’s Office and the Farnesina crisis unit have opened an investigation into Pallù’s kidnapping.
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