Jordan embassy probes missing journalist’s nationality-A A +A
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
MANILA -- The Jordan embassy in Japan, which has jurisdiction over the Philippines, is conducting a probe to determine whether journalist Baker Abdulla Atyani is indeed a Jordanian national.
Atyani, regional bureau chief of the Al Arabiya news channel based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and his Filipino crew -- cameraman Ramelito Vela and audio operator Rolando Letrero -- were last sighted in Patikul town in Sulu, before they were reported missing last June 12.
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.
Ang said the embassy in Tokyo will make the confirmation of Atyani’s nationality based on its own records.
“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 in the passport. So that’s the only info we have,” he said.
Ang also said they are not in contact with Atyani’s employer, saying the consulate office has very limited functions.
He also said they have no information on Atyani’s alleged terrorist cell contacts.
The Philippine government confirmed on Monday that Atyani and his crew are in the hands of al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
But Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo said he could not say whether the three had been kidnapped.
“We don’t want to presume that there is a demand and that they are being held against their will,” Robredo said.
The receptionist at the Sulu State College Hotel, where the three stayed, said Atyani and his Filipino colleagues arrived at the hotel the night of June 11.
At 5.45 a.m. of June 12, the three men were picked up from the hotel by a man driving a multicab vehicle. They have not returned to the hotel since, prompting the owner to contact the police.
Colonel Jose Johriel Cenabre, Naval Forces Western Mindanao deputy commander for Marines operation, said there is no rescue operation yet despite the order to deploy troops to look for Atyani, Vela and Letrero. An international media group has also expressed concern over the safety of Atyani and his crew.
“The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins its affiliate the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) in expressing concern for the safety of a foreign television reporter and his two Filipino crew members who have been missing in the town of Jolo,” IFJ said in a statement on its website.
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 Abu Sayyaf Group abducted mostly foreign tourists from Sipadan, Malaysia.
NUJP said Atyani had returned to Jolo to film a television documentary on Abu Sayyaf in the area.
The Abu Sayyaf, a group of extremist Muslim militants, is notorious for kidnapping and beheading of their local and foreign captives.
They had kidnapped Western nationals, including Americans, and the group is also included in the United States’ list of foreign terrorist organizations.
Local officials in Jolo offered security to Atyani and his crew but they declined, police said.
Malacañang said on Tuesday that police authorities are looking at all possible angles in the disappearance of Atyani, Vela and Letrero.
A report Monday quoted an anonymous official saying “Atyani could be acting as 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.
Authorities said Atyani’s rejection of security escorts when conducting interviews in Sulu raised suspicions about the real identity of the Pakistan-based journalist.
Valte said Atyani and his Filipino crew will be subjected to questioning and debriefing when they surface.
Valte also refused to comment whether Atyani should be charged for violating the provision of Human Security Act deferring the matter to the Department of Justice. (ECV/PNA/Sunnex)