Troops deployed to look for Jordanian reporter-A A +A
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
MANILA (Updated 6:33 p.m.) -- The Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) has deployed troops to look for missing Jordanian journalist Baker Abdulla Atyani and his two Filipino crewmen in Sulu province.
Atyani, regional bureau chief of the Al Arabiya news channel based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and his Filipino crew -- cameraman Ramelito Vela, 39, and audio operator Rolando Letrero, 22 -- were officially declared missing last June 12.
Col. Jose Johriel Cenabre, NFWM deputy commander for Marines operation, said there is no rescue operation yet despite this order.
He added that the status of the three is still "missing" and not kidnapped although they are now in the hands of the al-Qaeda linked Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
Malacañang earlier confirmed that Atyani's team was "in the hands" of the ASG. But it did not categorize the incident as kidnapping, saying Atyani went to ASG lair "voluntarily." He reportedly wanted to interview ASG militants for his documentary.
"They are with the Abu Sayyaf, yes, but as (to) they were kidnapped or doing interview until now, we are not really sure because they have with them their equipment," Cenabre said.
It can be recalled that Atyani and his Filipino crew were declared missing after they failed to return to their room at the Sulu State College Hostel where they checked in at 11 p.m. on June 11.
At 5:45 a.m. on June 12, the three men were reportedly fetched by a man driving a multicab and have not returned since then.
Malacañang said on Tuesday that police authorities are looking at all possible angles in the disappearance of Atyani, Vela and Letrero.
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, an international terrorist network funded by Osama bin Laden.
“All angles are being looked at. The Philippine National Police is exploring all possibilities,” she said.
“That is not to foreclose on any particular avenue but yet they are keeping the horizon open, so to speak, for any possibilities that may contribute to what had happened to the incident. So they are looking at all angles now,” she added.
Atyani is known as the man who interviewed bin Laden three months before the 9/11 terror attack in the United States.
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.”
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.
“The local authorities cannot just let him walk away and leave. Of course, they will have their own questions for him. He will be debriefed,” she said.
Asked if there will be a ban on foreign journalists interviewing terror groups like the Abu Sayyaf, she said “that will have to be discussed because that will and may have implications on curtailing the freedom of expression or I would imagine that some media groups will have a problem with that.”
Valte refused to comment whether Atyani should be charged for violating the provision of Human Security Act deferring the matter to the Department of Justice.
“That will properly be under the jurisdiction of the DOJ (Department of Justice)… We will leave that up to the DOJ to determine.” (Jill Beltran/Sunnex/PNA)