MANILA – Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani revealed that he managed to escape from his Abu Sayyaf captors in Sulu.
An Al Arabiya News Network report earlier said the kidnappers handed over Atyani to the local governor's office on Wednesday night.
But speaking to ABS-CBN News, an emaciated Atyani, the Southeast Asia bureau chief of Al-Arabiya, said he finally managed to escape after failing in his pervious attempts.
"This time they were really too busy and I noticed that before the sunset, between about 2 o' clock and 6 o' clock, they were very busy. They go to the nearest town market and a good number of them is out of the place and there is no security. The security is only imposed around my hut at night. And so I've been observing this the last few days and I was able to know the directions. Some of them helped me to know the directions, some of the kidnappers," Atyani said.
Atyani, a Dubai-based journalist known for interviewing Osama bin Laden months before the September 11 attacks, was taken hostage in Jolo with his two Filipino crewmen in July 2012 while filming a documentary on the bandit group.
The Filipinos were freed in February this year. The two said no money had changed hands. They said they were separated from the Jordanian five days after they were taken captive.
Atyani is scheduled to be transported to Zamboanga City today after going through medical check-up and stress de-briefing in Patikul, Sulu.
Senior Inspector Kris Conrad Gutierrez, Patikul Police spokesperson, said Atyani was found by authorities wandering along a road in Barangay Igasan on Wednesday evening.
"We asked him his name and he told us he's Bakr Atyani," Gutierrez told ANC. "We brought him directly to the hospital for a medical check-up and he is still there until now."
Gutierrez explained they were not able to ask Atyani whether he was released or had managed to escape.
"We prioritized his health and his doctors advised us not to talk to him because his blood pressure shot up and needed to be stabilized. For now, he is undergoing stress de-briefing," he said.
"He is now able to talk and stand up, and his mood has lightened up."
Atyani now weighs about 50 kilograms, a significant drop from his 85 kg weight at the time he was abducted, Gutierrez said.
The Abu Sayyaf group was founded with seed money from bin Laden's Al Qaeda network to fight for an independent Islamic state, though it later turned into a criminal gang.
Previous kidnapping cases involving the Abu Sayyaf have involved large ransom payoffs, which local authorities euphemistically call payments for "board and lodging".
Military and police sources had previously said the Abu Sayyaf had demanded millions of dollars in ransom, though neither Atyani's family nor employer would confirm this.
US Special Forces have been rotating through Jolo and other parts of the southern Philippines for more than a decade to train local troops battling the group, which is on Washington's list of "foreign terrorist organisations".
Philippine authorities say Abu Sayyaf gunmen are believed still to hold a number of foreign as well as Filipino hostages, including two European birdwatchers and a Japanese treasure hunter.
In March, the gunmen freed Australian Warren Rodwell after 15 months in captivity. Philippine negotiators said his family had paid a $100,000 ransom.
Rodwell was seized in December 2011, and his captors had initially demanded $2 million for his safe release. – with Agence France-Presse and ANC