An extensive search has been launched for a 79-year-old Irish priest who has been kidnapped in the Philippines.

A 79-year-old Irish priest has been kidnapped in a troubled southern region of the Philippines.

Father Michael Sinnott, from Barntown in Co Wexford, was snatched by six gunmen who stormed his residence near the southern city of Pagadian.

It is understood he is a member of the Missionaries of St Columban.

Regional police commander Chief Superintendent Angelo Sumlao said the gunmen took Fr Sinnott to a waiting van, which was later found abandoned and torched in a coastal area.

They then boarded a small vessel and headed out to sea, Chief Superintendent Sumlao said, quoting witnesses.

No one has claimed responsibility for the abduction, although previous kidnappings targeting foreign missionaries and tourists have been blamed on the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group.

Fr Sinnott is the third Irish priest to be kidnapped in the area.

In 1997, Fr Des Hartford was held by Islamic militants for 12 days, and in 2001 a priest from Waterford, Fr Rufus Hally, was shot dead during an attempted abduction.