Two Filipino crewmen released, but Jordanian journalist still being held hostage

Ransom money not yet sent to terror leader in Sulu

Gulf News

Manila: A Jordanian journalist working for a TV network in the UAE who was reported missing after interviewing a terror group in the southern Philippines on June 12, has not been released, as was earlier reported by a local newspaper.

Nakhle El Hage, director of news and current affairs, Al Arabiya News Channel, denied that the reporter had been freed. There had been no news of him, he said.

Baker Abdullah Atyani, Southeast Asia bureau chief of Al Arabiya and Filipino crewmen, Ramelito Vela and Rolando Letrero, were already freed, although there was also a conflicting report that the one assigned to send the P50 million (Dh4.166 million) ransom for their release has not yet reached the forested lair of the Abu Sayyaf leader Nadzmer Alih, the identified kidnappers of the journalists, Prof Octavio Dinampo, a non-government organisation leader told the Inquirer.

The holder of the ransom money has been busy evading those who were following him, said Dinampo, coordinator of Sulu’s Ceasefire Watchdog.

As a result, the holder of the ransom money has decided that the kidnappers should be the one to look for him instead, said Dinampo.

He did not give details about the current whereabouts of Atyani and his companions.

At the same time, the Inquirer quoted Rommel Banlaoi, executive director of the Philippine Institute for Peace,

Violence and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR), as saying that he saw Atyani in a video sent by the Abu Sayyaf Group to government authorities.

“It was very short (video) and he (Atyani) was (shown) talking to someone about the history of Muslims in the Philippines. I don’t know the exact date the video was taken,” Banlaoi said, adding, “I had a chance to see the video footage.”

Atyani appeared thin in the video footage, said Banlaoi.

An unnamed government source also volunteered to the Inquirer that the video being referred to by Banlaoi was taken last June.

He refused to give more details such as the source of the video.

Chief Supt. Mario Avenido, chief of police of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) denied seeing the video tape referred to by Banlaoi.

Since June 12, local government leaders have been negotiating with the kidnap leaders for Atyani’s release, but they have not given updates on the result of their negotiations.

Atyani had interviewed the late Osama Bin Laden months before the simultaneous terror attacks of four commercial planes that killed 3,000 at three different place, the twin towers in New York’s World Trade Centre, at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Virginia, and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001.

The Abu Sayyaf Group has links with Jemaah Islamiyah, the Southeast Asian conduit of the Al Qiada terror network that was once led by Bin Laden.

The group has been blamed for kidnap-for-ransom, beheadings, bombings, and other terror activities in the southern Philippines, and also in Manila

The group was established in the southern Philippines with the help of the brother-in-law of Bin Laden in the 90s.