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MANILA, Philippines - Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani and his two Filipino crew members are being "held hostage" by Abu Sayyaf bandits in Sulu, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jesse Robredo told InterAksyon.com on Saturday.
Robredo said that Atyani, the Southeast Asia bureau chief ofDubai-based Al Arabiya network, and Ramilito Vela and Rolando Letrero were being held "against their will."
"(They were) not kidnapped as they were not taken by force or were abducted but now being held hostage. They are now being held against their will," Robredo said.
He said the three were safe and "unharmed," but were "being prevented from leaving."
One of the two Filipino crewmen was able to contact his wife and told her that she should seek help from his husband's employer. But Robredo did not identify who among the two was able to speak with his wife.
Robredo said it was possible the three were barred from leaving after the reports that they were missing gained "publicity."
"(I) suspect that publicity of incident has forced them (ASG) to do so (held the 3 hostage). If gone unnoticed like in the previous interviews, they would have been allowed to leave," the DILG chief said.
Despite this, Robredo said the government had not yet conducted search and rescue operations for Atyani and the two Filipinos.
Atyani and his crew went missing last June 12 in Patikul, Sulu afte rleaving early from their hotel to reportedly interview Abu Sayyaf commanders in the area.
Earlier, the government stood firm in its statement that the three were not kidnapped contrary to the statement made by the Jordanian Foreign Ministry.