Jordan confirms reporter¿s abduction

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Jordan¿s foreign ministry has confirmed that Al Arabiya journalist Baker Atyani was kidnapped in Sulu, a Jordanian newspaper reported Wednesday even as Philippine authorities remained uncertain about the status of the TV reporter and two Filipino cameramen.

In a report, the Jordan Times quoted the Middle Eastern country¿s foreign ministry as confirming that Atyani, a veteran TV reporter who interviewed Osama bin Laden months before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, went missing on June 12 together with two Manila-based cameramen¿Rolando Letrero and Ramelito Vela¿while pursuing a reporting assignment in Southern Philippines.

¿Efforts exerted via the Jordanian embassy in Tokyo and our consul in Manila have confirmed that Atyani was kidnapped. We are following up on the case in order to secure his safe release," the Jordan Times quoted Jordan¿s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Sabah Rafei as saying.

The newspaper said Rafei did not elaborate.

Philippine authorities are still unconvinced that Atyani has actually been kidnapped and believe he and the two Filipino cameramen are in some upland area pursuing a story with the clandestine Abu Sayyaf, an extremist Islamist group associated with the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

However, a separate Inquirer source, peace advocate and former kidnap victim Octavio Dinampo, believed the kidnap reports were reliable, adding that the Al Arabiya team may have been taken by the same group that held for ransom a local ABS-CBN crew led by Ces Drilon in 2008. Ransom demands may have been relayed directly to the journalist¿s family in Jordan, he said.

Atyani and his two Filipino companions interviewed Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan at 10:00 a.m. on June 11. They were last seen the next morning boarding a tricycle that came to fetch them at the hotel.

Dinampo said the information he got from his sources indicated that the Abu Sayyaf, or whatever group has them, has decided to keep the three in exchange for money.

He said the information shared to him was that the Abu Sayyaf wants P50 million for the three men and that the demand was relayed directly to the Jordanian¿s family.

Citing his experience as an Abu Sayyaf hostage, Dinampo said the information on the kidnapping could be reliable.

He said when the Abu Sayyaf took him and the ABS-CBN team led by Ces Drilon in June 2008, the bandit group also by-passed authorities and directly contacted their families.

¿When we were kidnapped by this same group, Ces was forced to give the number of a person to relay the demand to. Baker was allegedly requested to do the same," he said.

But the Philippine National Police (PNP) said Atyani and the two Filipinos were still considered missing, and efforts were being made to locate them, albeit short of launching a search-and-rescue operation.

There has been no ransom demand that has been reported or that has come to light," added President Aquino¿s deputy spokesperson, Abigail Valte, in a separate interview.

¿We have speculations that they are just working (on their documentary). But because of their prolonged disappearance, we need to find ways to determine where they are," said Philippine National Police Director General Nicanor Bartolome said.

Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan expressed his displeasure at Atyani, saying he would have the journalist arrested and deported when he emerges from the Abu Sayyaf lair.

¿I will have him arrested. I will have him investigated for promoting these criminals and then we will deport him," Tan fumed.

¿We are not really giving much attention to that (kidnapping report). We have many things to attend to than to try to find a person who is hiding," he said.

He also faulted Rolando Letrero and Ramelito Vela ¿because they agreed to go with that fool."

¿That¿s their fault," he said.

However, Tan admitted that he has accepted a deal with the Moro National Liberation Front, which offered to help locate Atyani.

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