Missing Jordanian Helping Abu Sayyaf?

MANILA, Philippines --- Local authorities are not launching search and rescue operations for a Jordanian journalist and his two Filipino companions who went missing in Sulu province last week as they voiced suspicions that the foreign newsman might have been on a "secret mission" to help the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

Senior Supt. Antonio Freyra, director of the Sulu Provincial Police office, said they are not discounting the possibility that Baker Atyani was tasked to funnel funds to the local terror group which he said has been plagued with financial problems.

"There are indications that they have discreet and hidden agenda. Maybe funneling fund, that is a possibility," said Freyra.

"Why? Because it is difficult now to transfer funds," he added.

The military earlier declared that the ASG is already dying down because of the vacuum of leadership brought about by the death of its key leaders and lack of funds following the busting of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and the aggressive hunt and eventual killing of Al-Qaeda's top leader Osama bin Laden.

According to reports, Atyani -- the regional bureau chief of the Al Arabiya news channel based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates -- is widely-known for having interviewed Bin Laden three months before the 9/11 attack in the United States.

Freyra said among the indications of close ties between ASG and Atyani was that the latter repeatedly turned down offer for security from both Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan and local police and military officers.

The official said Atyani even duped Tan when the Jordanian declared that he and his two Filipino crew -- cameraman Ramelito Vela, 39, and audio operator Rolando Letrero, 22 -- would not go out without security.

"They assured the governor that they will not go out without security. But early June 12, we found out that they have already arranged for a vehicle. Clearly, they fooled the government," said Freyra.

The official said they also received information that Atyani and his two Filipino companions were fetched for the interview with ASG officials.

The PNP leadership earlier revealed that Atyani was planning to interview Yasser Igasan, the spiritual leader of the remaining ASG in Sulu.

"They will not go out and go with them if they were not assured of their safety," said Freyra.

As such, Freyra said the police, along with the military and the local chief executives including Governor Tan, are not convinced that Atyani was kidnapped.

Freyra said there has never any confirmation so far that the three victims were kidnapped.

"The Governor directed me not to rescue them because they were just hanging out there," said Freyra.

What they will do, according to Freyra, is to conduct checkpoints, hoping that they may cross paths with Atyani and his two Filipino crewmen.

Meanwhile in Malacañang, Deputy Presidential Spokeswoman Abigail Valte said yesterday the police are now pursuing all potential leads in the case of the missing Jordanian journalist amid unconfirmed reports he may be associated with the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

Valte said they could not yet confirm if Atyani, who went missing since last week, is indeed a conduit to the al-Qaeda organization.

"I cannot confirm that. However what we can tell you is that the PNP (Philippine National Police) is exploring all angles in the case of Mr. Atyani," Valte said when asked if the foreign journalist is a terrorist cell contact assigned to deliver funds to the ASG.

Valte, however, stated that Atyani, currently in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf, must be subjected to debriefing by authorities once he resurfaces. The Palace earlier confirmed that Atyani and his two Filipino crew are in the custody of the ASG for a supposed interview but is unclear if they have been abducted.

"When Mr. Atyani reappears, he will be subjected to some form of questioning about what happened," Valte said. "Of course, the local authorities cannot just let him walk away and leave. Of course, they will have their own questions for him. He will be debriefed," she added.

Asked if Atyani should be charged for violating the country's anti-terrorism law for interviewing terrorists, Valte said it is up to the Department of Justice to determine such case.

The government, meantime, will have to study carefully any proposed ban on foreign journalists from interviewing terrorists like the Abu Sayyaf, according to Valte. She noted that such proposal may have implications on curtailing press freedom.

"I would imagine that some media groups will have a problem with that. That will have to be discussed if the proposal reaches us," she said.

Valte also appealed to journalists to coordinate with authorities if they plan to cover stories in places with security threats, adding the government is ready to provide protection. "However, we would advise very strongly against compromising the safety and security of reporters whether they be foreign or local," she said.

The military has deployed troops to locate Atyani and two Filipino cameramen who have been declared missing in Sulu since June 12.

Col. Jose Johriel Cenabre, deputy commander for Marines operation of the Naval Forces in Western Mindanao (NFWM), however, stressed there is no rescue operation yet.

This, even as the military confirmed that Atyani and his Filipino companions are now in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf.

It can be recalled that Atyani and his Filipino crew were declared missing after the three failed to return to their room at the Sulu State College (SSC) Hostel where they checked in 11 p.m. on June 11.

At 5:45 a.m. the next day (June 12), the three men were reportedly fetched by a man driving a multicab and have not returned since then.

"They are with the Abu Sayyaf, yes, but as (to) whether they were kidnapped or doing interview until now we are not really sure because they have with them their equipment," said Cenabre.

The official added the status of the three is still "missing" and not kidnapped although they are now in the hands of the ASG.

"The same position pa din tayo dyan... na talagang hindi pa kidnapped yung kanilang status kasi wala pa namang nag-own na kinidnap sila, puro speculation lang," said Cenabre.

The official further said while they have sent out troops to the area, the soldiers' mission is locate the missing journalists, not to rescue them so as not to compromise their safety.

"We do not want to (do anything that) may compromise yung safety ng tatlo," said Cenabre.

"May deployment na tayo... but we are not running after them... kasi we don't want to preempt something that we don't like to happen," he said, adding all efforts in relation to the case of the missing journalists are in coordination with Sulu Governor Tan.

"Lahat yun ay under the direction of the governor who is in total control of the situation," said Cenabre, adding: "We don't want to turn all these into kidnapping when it is not even kidnapping." (With reports from Genalyn D. Kabiling and Elena L. Aben)

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Sandigan OKs hospital stay for GMA co-accused
    Sandigan OKs hospital stay for GMA co-accused

    The Sandiganbayan has allowed a government official, accused with plunder along with former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to undergo a medical procedure at a hospital tomorrow. The anti-graft court permitted former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) board member Benigno Aguas to undergo a cardiopulmonary/endocrine clearance at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City. …

  • Sandigan recommends executive clemency for ex-envoy
    Sandigan recommends executive clemency for ex-envoy

    The Sandiganbayan has recommended executive clemency for a former Philippine ambassador to Nigeria who was sentenced to 52 years for malversation of public funds. The Sandiganbayan First Division found Masaranga Umpa guilty of misusing the Assistance-To-Nationals Stand-by Funds totaling $80,478.80 in 2007, but the anti-graft court said the former assemblyman from Lanao del Norte should be pardoned. …

  • Stargazing at the mall highlights Earth Hour
    Stargazing at the mall highlights Earth Hour

    It was a night of stargazing in 58 SM Supermalls all over the country last night as these establishments participated in Earth Hour, an annual worldwide movement encouraging communities and establishments to switch off lights for one hour to raise global awareness of overuse of non-renewable resources. The Philippines has been an active participant of Earth Hour since 2008. Last night, in the province of Bulacan, for instance, all parishes, diocesan institutions, schools and household …

  • Payanig privatization hit
    Payanig privatization hit

    BLEMP Commercial of the Philippines, Inc. (BLEMP) denounced the recent announcement of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) to privatize the 18.4-hectare “Payanig sa Pasig” property. In a statement sent to The STAR, BLEMP lawyer Dennis Manalo said the PCGG has no right to auction the property because it has no valid title and is not in possession. The PCGG has not paid a single centavo in real property taxes for the property, he said. He narrated that it was in the early 70s …

  • New species of tarantula found
    New species of tarantula found

    Scientists from the Museum of Natural History (MNH) of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños have discovered a new species of cave-dwelling tarantula on an island off the coast of Quezon. The new species of the spider, Phlogiellus kwebaburdeos, was described in the recent issue of the Philippine Journal of Systematic Biology by MNH curators for spiders Aimee Lynn Dupo and Alberto Barrion along with their former student Joseph Rasalan. The tarantula was discovered by Rasalan during one …

  • Palm Sunday: Do not add to suffering of others
    Palm Sunday: Do not add to suffering of others

    As Christendom enters Holy Week today, Palm Sunday, an official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) yesterday called on the faithful not to add to the sufferings of their fellowmen. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Public Affairs (ECPA), said that while Palm Sunday is oftentimes remembered as the glorious arrival of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, it also signals the start of the Holy Week that tells of His suffering, death and …

  • Miriam pushes tougher graft law
    Miriam pushes tougher graft law

    Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago has filed a bill that would make public officials liable for violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act even if they are elected to a fresh term or a new position. In filing Senate Bill 2716, Santiago sought to address what she said was the doctrine of condonation in Philippine jurisprudence brought about by the 2010 case of Salumbides vs. Ombudsman. “By merely asserting the doctrine of condonation, erring elective officials are automatically given a …

  • Phl hits back at China over sea infra work
    Phl hits back at China over sea infra work

    The Philippines assailed China yesterday for contesting Manila’s planned repair and maintenance works on some islands in the West Philippine Sea, saying they are “in no way comparable” to the Asian power’s massive reclamation activities which are in violation of international laws. “The Philippines’ possible undertaking of necessary maintenance and repairs on its existing facilities in the West Philippine Sea, over which the Philippines rightfully exercises sovereignty, sovereign rights and …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options