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Jordanian TV journalist, crew missing in south Philippines

Publication Date : 15-06-2012


A veteran Jordanian TV journalist, known among international news organisations as the media man who had a chance to meet Osama Bin Laden three months before 9/11,  and his two Filipino crew were  missing in Jolo on Friday.

Chief Superintendent Manuel Barcena, head of the Directorate for Police Operations in Western Mindanao, said the initial report they got was that Baker Abdulla Atyani of the Dubai-based Al Arabiya Network and his companions, Rolando Letrero and Ramelito Vela, had been kidnapped, a day after arriving in Jolo to do a documentary.

But Senior Superintendent Antonio Freyra told the Inquirer that Atyani and the two Filipinos had simply failed to return to their hostel after going out  on Tuesday.

“It’s premature to say they were abducted,” he said.

Barcena said Atyani, Letrero and Vela arrived in Jolo by plane on Monday to shoot a television documentary for Al Arabiya. They were welcomed by local broadcast journalist Nikki Butlangan.

“They checked in at the Sulu State College Hostel,” Barcena said.

He said on June 12, Atyani and the two Filipinos were fetched by a white multicab from the hostel. They have not returned since.

“Up to this date, we have no reports on their whereabouts,” he said.

Freyra said they learned that Atyani, Letrero and Vela went missing when the hotel staff informed police they did not return after setting out on June 12.

“The Jolo mayor offered to provide security for them, but they declined, saying they would not go far from their hotel,” Freyra told Agence France-Presse.

Barcena said police investigators decided to forcibly open the two rooms occupied by the three men in the hostel to see if they could find clues to where they might have gone.

Atyani is a seasoned journalist who covered the Afghan conflict as Pakistan bureau chief of the Middle East Broadcasting Co.

In June 2001, he was summoned by the Al-Qaeda for a meeting with  bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri near Kandahar. Atyani spent a few hours with the two Al-Qaeda leaders but failed to do an on-cam interview with them.

Atyani later told CNN that during their talks, bin Laden and al-Zawahiri dropped hints about what would become the September 11 attacks.

Jolo is a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf, a small Islamic militant movement that has been blamed for most of the country’s worst terrorist attacks as well as kidnappings of foreigners.

Freyra said there was no information yet as to whether they had been kidnapped, but said foreigners who ventured to the far southern island were targets for the Abu Sayyaf and other groups involved in abductions.

“If Americans or other foreigners come here it is natural for us to offer them security…. We all know that we still have a kidnapping problem here,” he said. With Agence France-Presse



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