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Abu Sayyaf abductors free Jordanian journalist
Publication Date : 05-12-2013
Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani was released by his Abu Sayyaf abductors in Patikul, Sulu, Wednesday morning, after 18 months in captivity, police said late Wednesday.
Brig. Gen, Jose Johriel Cenabre, commander of Joint Task Force Sulu, confirmed the release of Atyani in the village of Igasan in Patikul shortly before 9am Wednesday.
“We are having problems in communication here. We’ve been trying to relay the good news about Atyani,” Cenabre told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone, in explaining the delayed announcement.
“We found him walking along the road… he’s lost some weight,” Chief Inspector Chris Gutierrez told Agence France Presse in a telephone interview from the southern port of Zamboanga.
Gutierrez said the police patrol did not see any of Atyani’s kidnappers, and there was no firefight.
Atyani was immediately took him to the Integrated Provincial Hospital, according to Cenabre. Cenabre did not say how and why Atyani was released by his captors Wednesday morning.
Atyani, a Jakarta-based reporter with the Pan-Arabic Al-Arabiya News Channel (he is bureau chief for Southeast Asia), was kidnapped with two Filipino crew members while on news coverage in Sulu on June 12, 2012. In February the militants released the two crew members, who said they were separated from the Jordanian on the fifth day of their captivity.
The Dubai-based broadcaster Al-Arabiya said in a statement Wednesday that he was handed over to the Filipino authorities by the kidnappers.
“The Philippine authorities are now responsible for ensuring his safe return to his family in Jordan,” the broadcaster said.
Jordanian foreign ministry spokeswoman Sabah al-Rafie said Atyani was taken to a hospital in Jolo after being freed on Wednesday afternoon, according to a statement to Petra state news agency.
She thanked the Philippines government for “efforts” that resulted in his release.
“Concerted efforts that lasted for 18 months led to the release of Al Arabiya correspondent Baker Atyani held in captivity under militant groups in the Sulu Islands in the Philippine province of Mindanao,” the Al-Arabiya posted in its website, quoting the Al Arabiya News Channel.
It stated that sources said the kidnappers handed over Atyani to the local governor’s office Wednesday evening and that the Philippine authorities will secure his return to Jordan.
“There will be more details released later, but for now there is an overwhelming feeling of joy and relief that our colleague Baker will finally be re-joining his family and re-joining us,” an editor inside the channel said.
Cenabre said Atyani has been suffering from high blood pressure.
He added that the journalist would be picked up by a private plane on Thursday morning.
“He might be brought to Manila or elsewhere, we don’t know yet the details,” Cenabre said.
The Abu Sayyaf group was founded with seed money from Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network to fight for an independent Islamic state, though it later turned into a criminal gang.
US Special Forces have been rotating through Jolo and other parts of the southern Philippines for more than a decade to train local troops battling the group, which is on Washington’s list of “foreign terrorist organisations”.
The Philippine authorities say Abu Sayyaf gunmen are believed still to hold a number of foreign as well as Filipino hostages, including two European birdwatchers and a Japanese treasure hunter.
Dutchman Ewold Horn and Lorenzo Vinciguerra of Switzerland were abducted in the Tawi-Tawi island group near Jolo in February last year, while Amer Mamaito Katayama of Japan was abducted on the island of Pangutaran near Jolo in July 2010.—With news reports