x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Hunt for Al Arabiya reporter missing in Philippines

The Al Arabiya crew was filming a documentary on the restive southern island of Jolo, a notorious hotbed of Islamist militants and kidnappings.

Jordanian reporter Baker Atyani for Dubai-based Al Arabiya news network and his two Filipino television crew are missing on a southern Philippine island notorious for kidnappings by Islamic militants, police said.
Jordanian reporter Baker Atyani for Dubai-based Al Arabiya news network and his two Filipino television crew are missing on a southern Philippine island notorious for kidnappings by Islamic militants, police said.

DUBAI // A veteran TV reporter who interviewed Osama bin Laden before the 9/11 attacks is missing in the Philippines with two of his crew.

Baker Atyani, 43, Southeast Asia bureau chief for Al Arabiya in Dubai, was working on the restive southern island of Jolo, a notorious hotbed of Islamist militants and kidnappings. He and his two Filipino colleagues have not been seen since they left their hotel early on Tuesday.

"They got into a vehicle waiting outside with Mr Atyani next to the driver and the other men behind. There has been no news about them since then. We are continuing our investigations," said Antonio Freyra, a senior superintendent of the Philippines national police.

"We searched the hotel room where they were staying and did not find anything suspicious," Supt Freyra said.

"I firmly believe they are safe condition and I am hoping that in a few days time we will know where they are."

The mayor of Jolo, Hussin Amin, had offered to provide security for the crew, but they said it was unnecessary because they were not travelling far. The hotel contacted police when they failed to return.

"We don't know if he has been kidnapped. We don't know their objective here," Mr Amin said. "He's been declared missing for now."

The crew had arrived in Jolo by plane on Monday to shoot a television documentary for Al Arabiya.

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

Supt Freyra said foreigners who ventured to the far southern island were targets for Abu Sayyaf and other groups involved in abductions.

Al Arabiya's head of media, Nasser Al Sarami, said the network was trying to contact its crew and ensure that they returned safe and sound.

He said the crew was filming a documentary "to shine a light on the situation of Muslims in the Philippines", to be broadcast during Ramadan.

Mr Atyani, from Jordan, was working for the Arabic satellite channel Middle East Broadcasting in June 2001 when he met bin Laden and his aides in Afghanistan.

They told him that the coming weeks would hold "important surprises that will target American and Israeli interests in the world".

frahman@thenational.ae

* Additional reporting by the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse