ZAMBOANGA, Philippines (UPDATE) – Authorities in Sulu province are now searching for a Jordanian journalist and his two Filipino companions reported missing since Tuesday (June 12).
|Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani of the Al Arabiya News
Sr. Supt. Antonio Freyra, provincial director of the Sulu Philippine National Police, said Baker Atyani of the Al Arabiya News arrived aboard a commercial plane with cameraman Rolando Letrero and audioman Ramelita.
The group then joined some members of the local media in interviewing Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan.
Freyra said Tan offered to provide the team with security escorts but the group declined, saying they will not stray far from Jolo town.
Nikki Butlangan, a member of the local press, said he accompanied the team to the municipal hall of Jolo since they wanted to interview Jolo Mayor Hussin Amin.
After the interview, Butlangan said the group proceeded in touring Jolo town to take footages of mosque, the market, and capture the sunset at the Maobo beach.
Butlangan said he was told by the team that they were in Sulu to do a documentary.
At 9 p.m. of June 11, Butlangan said he left the group with the party of Mayor Amin, who then brought Atyani's team back to the Sulu State College Hostel around midnight.
Freyra said Mayor Amin also offered the group security escorts but the team said they will not be leaving the hostel anyway.
However, police received a call from the hostel at about 4 p.m. of June 12 saying that the team of Atyani had not returned since they left past 5 a.m.
Hostel staff informed the authorities that a white multicab with an unidentified driver and a companion fetched the team and left towards the direction of Jolo proper.
Col. Jojo Cenabre, operations officer of the Joint Task Force Sulu, in a phone interview said they do not consider this case as another abduction.
“They were fetched, they were not forcibly taken from the hostel," Cenabre said.
Cenabre said the case is now being investigated, to include individuals who might have been the group's contact persons in the province.
Sulu is a known lair of the Abu Sayyaf Group, which has earned international notoriety for kidnapping foreigners, members of the media, human rights workers, prominent businessmen and even ordinary laborers.
They have also been involved in various bombing incidents and other attacks against government troops.
As of posting, the Abu Sayyaf Group in Sulu was still holding captive Indian national Biju Kolara Veetil, Japanese national Toshio Ito, and Engr. Carlos Tee, a manager of a gas station in Jolo town.
Another captive, a Malaysian national, was the latest to have been freed.
There is no confirmation yet if the two European birdwatchers kidnapped in Tawi-Tawi this year have already been transferred to Sulu.