Robredo: Missing Jordanian journalist now a hostage
The Interior and Local Government Secretary says the Abu Sayyaf Group may be taking advantage of the attention the Jordanian journalist generated

Jordanian Baker Atyani (left) with Al Qaeda's Ayman al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan back in June 2001. Photo from CNN

MANILA, Philippines – Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo confirmed Saturday, June 23, that the missing Jordanian journalist and his 2 Filipino crew members have been held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Sulu.

Robredo said the ASG could have taken advantage of the attention generated by what should have been a plain interview arranged by Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani with them. “Kung hindi ito napansin, mag-iinterview lang ito, baka pinakawalan,” Robredo said. (If this did not generate attention, and it remained a plain interview, he would have been released.)

This information came from DILG sources whom Robredo refused to identify to protect their identities.

Robredo, however, clarified the government still does not consider it a “kidnapping.” “Wala namang indication na puwersahang dinala doon eh,” he said. (There is no indication that they were forcibly brought there.)

“Ang clear ngayon, gusto na nilang umuwi, hindi sila pinapauwi,” Robredo explained. (What is clear now is that they want to go home, and they aren’t allowed to.) 

He added there is no ransom demand.

Robredo also noted that Atyani – along with his Filipino crew members, Ramel Vela and Roland Letrino – remain unharmed based on information he got.

Sulu Police Director Senior Superintendent Antonio Freyra said they have not received any directive from Robredo yet. “No rescue ops (operations) as of the moment.”

Atyani and his companions arrived in Sulu on June 11 and were reported missing the next day.

The Foreign Ministry of Jordan said Atyani was kidnapped, a claim the Philippine government immediately debunked. (Read: Jordan claims Atyani was kidnapped.) 

Mindanao State University Professor Octavio Dinampo, who was kidnapped by the ASG himself, suspected Atyani suffered the same fate and the government didn’t want to admit it. “Response is very slow. [The government is] in denial from the very start.”

In 2008, Dinampo and television reporter Ces Drilon, along with two cameramen, were abducted while they were on their way to interview a commander of ASG. Dinampo was the one who arranged the interview. –

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