Jordan seeks safe, swift release of journalist

by Ira Pedrasa,

Posted at Jun 25 2012 06:20 PM | Updated as of Jun 26 2012 04:06 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Jordan’s Foreign Ministry is putting its faith in Philippine authorities to secure the swift release of Jordanian journalist Baker Abdulla Atyani, as well as his Filipino crew, from the hands of the Abu Sayyaf.

In an interview with ANC, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Sabah Rafei said the coordination with Philippine authorities is now at "the highest level through different diplomatic channels.”

She admitted, however, that the Jordanian government already knew of Atyani’s kidnapping “a week ago” via iits “own sources, diplomatic channels and other means.”

However, “our main concern now is his safety and swift return to his homeland and his family,” she said.

She added the foreign ministry has not yet made any contact with the Jordanian journalist, who flew to the Philippines on June 5 for an assignment about “Islamic communities” in Mindanao.

She added they have not contacted the kidnappers.

Rafei said Atyani’s interview with the Abu Sayyaf was not sanctioned. “We are not of the view that [such] assignment was sanctioned in any way because it [assignment] was mainly on Islamic communities.”

It was only on Saturday that Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo confirmed that it was a “kidnapping,” days after insisting that Atyani went with the Abu Sayyaf members willingly.

The following day, Malacañang dismissed insinuations that security officials downplayed the incident outright.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said on Sunday that Atyani went voluntarily to the Abu Sayyaf’s lair, but a “change of circumstance” happened along the way.

Valte said, “We don’t agree that it’s an abduction. The information we got is that he went there voluntarily. Now, he’s not able to leave.”

Abu Sayyaf, MNLF

The military said it has not received any information yet that Atyani and his men were abducted.

AFP spokesman Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos said: "We have no confirmation yet if they are abducted. However we are prepared, in case it has been confirmed and a directive has been handed down to us, to conduct search and rescue”

Col. Jose Johriel Cenabre, deputy commander for Marine operations of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao, said the military's Joint Task Force Sulu is already telling the residents in the affected areas to prepare for possible military operations.

"JTF Sulu is continuously conducting shaping operations along and around affected areas linking the movement of the three journalists to prepare the environment for possible law enforcement operation to rescue them, if directed by higher authorities," he said.

At present, the Abu Sayyaf have not yet demanded for anything. Cenabre said the journalist and the two Filipinos are with several groups of Abu Sayyaf men and Moro National Liberation Front members.