Photo from CNN
MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang confirmed reports that a prominent Jordanian journalist missing in Jolo, Sulu is with the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
In a press conference on Monday, June 18, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Baker Atyani of the Dubai-based Al Arabiya network is “in the hands of the ASG.”
Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo also confirmed this in an interview with ANC, the ABS-CBN News Channel. Robredo said one of the two Filipino crew members with Atyani was able to make phone calls to authorities to confirm they were not being held against their will.
Robredo said Atyani left his hostel on June 12, Tuesday, to do interviews without notifying the city government of Jolo. "While we have the standard precautionary measures to take care of him, on his own he decided to make his own contact and do the interview, and that's difficult to prevent."
Earlier, the Palace, could not say if the group was kidnapped.
Lacierda said, “We have no confirmation as to that effect. What we can confirm is that he went there voluntarily to interview the Abu Sayyaf Group. It is also confirmed that he has, in another occasion, had the opportunity to interview the Abu Sayyaf.”
He added, “What we can confirm is that he is in the hands of the ASG and that he went there voluntarily for an interview.”
Lacierda added that Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan is in talks with the ASG after forming a crisis committee. “They are in discussions.”
The Presidential Spokesperson reiterated that government will uphold its no-ransom policy if Atyani was kidnapped.
Lacierda and Robredo urged journalists who wish to interview the ASG to coordinate with authorities about their plans.
Robredo said a local public information officer was supposed to guide Atyani in Sulu but then he went missing on Tuesday, June 12. He arrived in the province a day earlier, saying he was there to make a documentary for Al Arabiya.
Atyani has been missing for nearly a week along with two Filipino crew members. The group was last spotted at 5:40 am of June 12, when a vehicle fetched them from their hostel and brought them to an unknown destination.
Atyani, 43, is the bureau chief for Southeast Asia of the Al Arabiya News Channel. He met with Al Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri near Kandahar, Afghanistan in June 2001, months before the 9/11 terror attacks.
The journalist is also the former Middle East Broadcasting Company bureau chief in Pakistan.
Jolo is a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf, a small Islamic militant movement that has been blamed for most of the country's worst terrorist attacks as well as kidnappings of foreigners. – Rappler.com
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