The online news portal of TV5
MANILA, Philippines – Police continue to face a blank wall on the disappearance of Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani and two Filipino companions declared “missing” in Jolo, Sulu since Tuesday even as authorities are looking into reports that Atyani has been in and out of Sulu the past 10 years.
“We have not received any word on the whereabouts of Baker Atyani as of today (Sunday),” Senior Supt. Gene R. Cerbo Jr., spokesman of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said in a phone interview.
Atyani and two Filipino cameramen -- Ramelito Vela and Roland Letrico -- failed to return to their hotel in Jolo last Tuesday, prompting hotel officials to report to the police about the whereabouts of their guests.
Cerbo said the category of Atyani, Vela and Letrico is “still missing” as it could not be confirmed if they were kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf, a notorious terrorist group linked with the al-Qaeda.
Supt. Noel Baraceros, deputy PNP spokesman, told PNA that Atyani or any other group had not made contacts with authorities on the whereabouts of the missing Jordanian journalists and the two Filipino TV crewmen.
Reports said that Atyani was the only journalist to have interviewed Osama bin Laden three months before the 9/11 terrorists’ attacks on New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001.
The police cannot say at this point that the Jordanian broadcaster and his two Filipino companions were kidnapped as no group has claimed to that effect, Cerbo said.
There have been reports that Atyani, a veteran journalist working for the Dubai-based Al Arabiya television network, has been visiting Sulu the past 10 years apparently to get first-hand news about the Abu Sayyaf, a terror group tagged in many terrorist attacks and kidnap-for-ransom in southern Philippines for the past 15 years. Many of their victims were foreigners.
Sulu is a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf.
Cerbo ruled out any arrest of Atyani when he shows up, but added that the police will ask him questions.
Before flying to Jolo on June 11, Atyani interviewed a certain Uztad Abdul Baki Abubakar and Morehi Ibrahim in Zamboanga.
Upon arrival in Jolo, Atyani interviewed Sulu Gov. Abu Sakur Tan and Jolo Mayor Hussein Amin.
Atyani reportedly declined to have security escorts offered by the Jolo municipal government.
On June 12, the three went out of their hotel for some pre-arranged interview. They had not returned to their hotel as of June 17.