Jordanian journalist, Filipino TV crew missing in Jolo
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - A three-man news team, including a prominent Jordanian journalist, is missing on a remote Philippine island notorious for Islamist militants and kidnappings, police said Friday.
Baker Atyani of the Dubai-based Al Arabiya network and his two Filipino crew failed to return to their hotel on Jolo island on Tuesday, provincial police chief Antonio Freyra said.
The crew had arrived in Jolo by plane on Monday, June 11, and told the authorities they were there to shoot a television documentary for Al Arabiya, Freyra said. They were reported to have checked in on June 11 at the Sulu State College hostel in Martirez, Jolo, Sulu.
In an interview with ANC, the ABS-CBN News Channel, Freyra said the group was lost spotted at 5:40 am on June 12, Tuesday. Freyra said hotel personnel and security guards told police that a vehicle fetched the team. Freyra said they left behind their room key and personal belongings, and only took their camera equipment with them.
Asked about the possibility of kidnapping, Freyra said, "I think since their purpose was really to make a documentary to be aired in the Middle East, they were concentrated on that. It's just surprising why they seem to have a hidden agenda ... because they went off to an unknown destination and purpose."
Frerya said the team was even supposed to cover Independence Day celebrations in Jolo Tuesday afternoon but failed to show up.
Bin laden meeting
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. Atyani was supposed to interview them but they declined to do an on-cam interview. The two Al Qaeda leaders were said to have dropped hints about 9/11 during his meeting with them.
Atyani is also former Middle East Broadcasting Company bureau chief in Pakistan.
Rappler's military sources said he was with Filipino cameraman Ramel Vela, 39, and Filipino audioman Rolan Letriro, 22, in Jolo.
Local authorities searched their rooms in Jolo town center after the hotel owner reported to police that they failed to return in the evening, Freyra said.
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.
Freyra said there was no information yet as to whether they had been kidnapped, but said foreigners who ventured to the far southern island were targets for the Abu Sayyaf and other groups involved in abductions.
"If Americans or other foreigners come here it is natural for us to offer them security.... We all know that we still have a kidnapping problem here," he said. - With a report from Agence France-Presse. Rappler.com