x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Filipino police continue search for missing Al Arabiya journalist

Jordanian Baker Atyani, 43, Southeast Asia bureau chief for Al Arabiya TV in Dubai, was working on the southern island of Jolo, an area notorious for kidnappings by Islamist militant groups.

Police in the Philippines are still searching for a Dubai-based journalist who went missing with two colleagues last week.

Jordanian Baker Atyani, 43, Southeast Asia bureau chief for Al Arabiya TV in Dubai, was working on the southern island of Jolo, an area notorious for kidnappings by Islamist militant groups.

Mr Atyani and his two Filipino colleagues, Rolando Letrero, 22, a sound man, and Ramelito Vela, 39, a photographer, have not been seen since they left their hotel early on Tuesday.

A senior police official said they are yet to find any clues as to where the three men might be.

"We are trying our best to locate them, but there has been no information so far. Investigations are still going on to recover them," said Antonio Freyra, a senior superintendent of the Philippines national police.

He said a crisis committee has been formed to investigate.

Meanwhile, Mindanao State University Professor Octavio Dinampo told the Philippines-based website Inquirer.net that Mr Atyani's group has indeed been kidnapped.

"What I know is that the group has been kidnapped. Their whereabouts or which group is responsible is still being verified," said Mr Dinampo, who is based in Sulu and a member of a local ceasefire group.

"Based on what I have gathered, there were contacts and prior appointments with the armed groups in Sulu that supposedly had arranged an interview [with an unidentified Abu Sayyaf leader] for Atyani.

"Unfortunately, the two contacts came late to the [Sulu State College] hostel, but they [Atyani's group] were given word of assurance from the armed group, unknowingly they were betrayed," Dinampo said.

Authorities have maintained the "missing" status of Mr Atyani, Mr Letrero and Mr Vela.

Jolo is a stronghold of Abu Sayyaf, an Islamist militant movement that has been blamed for some of the country's worst terrorist attacks as well as kidnapping foreigners.

frahman@thenational.ae