Missing journalist, crew in safe condition-A A +A
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
MANILA (Updated 12:21 p.m.) -- Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo confirmed Wednesday morning the missing Jordanian journalist and his Filipino crew are in safe condition.
Although Robredo did not divulge the whereabouts of journalist Baker Abdulla Atyani and his Filipino crew -- cameraman Ramelito Vela and audio operator Rolando Letrero -- he said the three will be called for questioning when they surface.
He said Atyani assured him he is taking full responsibility of his team.
He said that with this development, search and rescue operations for the three have been ruled out.
Atyani, regional bureau chief of the Al Arabiya news channel based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and his Filipino crew were last sighted in Patikul town in Sulu before they were reported missing last June 12.
The three were picked up from their hotel by a man driving a multicab vehicle at 5:45 p.m. on June 12. They have not returned to the hotel since, prompting the owner to contact the police.
The Philippine government confirmed on Monday that Atyani and his crew are in the hands of al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). But Robredo said he could not say whether the three had been kidnapped, adding speculations remained unconfirmed.
The Philippine National Police also said there have been no signs that the journalist and his team are being held hostage.
A report Monday quoted an anonymous official saying “Atyani could be acting as a conduit to deliver funds to the ASG in the guise of kidnapping.”
But deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the Palace has no information yet to confirm the report that Atyani could be a “fund conduit” for the al-Qaeda.
With this, the Jordan Embassy in Japan, which has jurisdiction over the Philippines, said Tuesday it is conducting a probe to determine whether Atyani is indeed a Jordanian.
Michael Alexander Ang, Jordan government’s honorary consul to the Philippines, said the Kingdom of Jordan issues passports to other foreign nationals, making it difficult to conclude if Atyani is indeed a native Jordanian or just a carrier of Jordanian passport.
“The passport issued on Atyani will not determine if he is Jordanian because as you know, their government allowed other nationalities to get Jordanian passports. It allowed refugees to get passports. We have to see the actual information based on the passport. So that’s the only info we have,” he said.
Atyani is known for his interview with al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri near Kandahar, Afghanistan in June 2001, a few months before the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.
Atyani had been to Sulu several times in 2000 when the ASG abducted mostly foreign tourists from Sipadan, Malaysia.
National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said Atyani had returned to Jolo to film a television documentary on Abu Sayyaf in the area. (Sunnex)