Jordanian journalist, Filipino crew now Abu Sayyaf hostages-A A +A
Sunday, June 24, 2012
MANILA (2nd Update) -- A Jordanian television reporter and his two Filipino crewmen are now considered hostages of the al-Qaeda–linked Abu Sayyaf, said a top government official on Saturday.
Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo said Jordanian journalist Baker Abdulah Atyani and his crew are now being held against their will.
The Philippine government earlier considered Atyani and his two Filipino crewmen -- Rolando Letrero, 22, an audio man, and Ramelito Vela, 39, a photographer -- as missing instead of kidnapped as intelligence showed the Jordanian journalist had been interviewing Islamic militants from the Abu Sayyaf group in their mountain strongholds in Sulu.
Malacañang failed to elaborate on Robredo’s disclosure at this point, which came after the Jordanian government released a statement last Friday that Atyani and his crew have been kidnapped.
“We continuously coordinate with Secretary Robredo. There are certain instances when we defer to the Cabinet secretaries to explain what has happened in a particular situation or in a particular issue,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in an interview with state-run Radyo ng Bayan.
During the interview, Valte insisted that the Palace is not in the position to detail about the factors that led to the abduction. She also left it to the DILG to check if there is a need to conduct a search-and-rescue operation.
"We don’t quite agree that it’s abduction because the information we have is that he went there voluntarily. Now it seems that he’s not able to leave. So that is something that we want Secretary Robredo to explain on what have led to the change in circumstances,” she said.
Atyani and his crew were reported missing since June 12 after they failed to return to their rented rooms at the Sulu State College Hostel located on Martirez Street in the capital town of Jolo.
Authorities said Atyani may have traveled to Jolo's mountainous jungles to seek an interview with Abu Sayyaf bandits and some of their foreign hostages as part of a TV documentary on the southern Philippines.
Atyani and his crew arrived Monday in Jolo, a hotbed of bandits notorious for bomb attacks, kidnappings and beheadings about 950 kilometers (590 miles) south of Manila.
Atyani is a veteran Middle Eastern TV reporter who had interviewed Osama bin Laden months before the September 11, 2001 attacks. He is Al-Arabiya's TV bureau chief in Southeast Asia. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)