Sahiron holding Atyani – Robredo
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Abu Sayyaf leader Radullan Sahiron is holding Jordanian journalist and his two Filipino companions, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo said.
Robredo on Sunday told the INQUIRER by phone that they have discovered that Sahiron’s men were holding Baker Atyani, the Dubai-based bureau chief of the Al-Arabiya News Network, and his two Filipino crew Ramelito Vela and Rolando Letrero.
Robredo said they were able to ascertain the information after one of the two Filipino captives was able to call his wife twice on Saturday.
“We got the impression based on the calls made by one of the Filipino captives that he got the impression they were taken as hostages and he wanted to speak and ask help from the company where they are connected with,” Robredo said.
Vela and Letrero work for the Manila-based SFX Production House.
But Robredo could still not say if there was a demand for ransom. “We cannot say at this time, but our impression for the said call may have something to do with asking for something from his company…but we cannot just conclude at this time.”
Earlier, Robredo would not declare the trio as kidnap victims, saying “the Filipino employees can easily call and sometimes the call would last for 30 minutes.”
But on Saturday morning, Robredo admitted that Atyani, Vela and Letrero were indeed taken as hostages by a faction of the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu. This, after the calls made by Vela to his wife “asking [her] to meet the principals of his company and ask help.”
Robredo said they wanted to know who arranged Atyani’s interview with the Abu Sayyaf outside of Jolo town “because the earlier agreement was for the interview to be conducted in Jolo town. It turned out the interview was in Patikul.”
Atyani was supposed to meet with Yasser Igasan, the alleged new leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group in the province.
Robredo said Igasan is a sub-leader of Sahiron.
Robredo said aside from Atyani, Vela and Letrero, Sahiron’s group is also holding Indian national Biju Kolara Veetil, who was kidnapped on June 22, 2011.
Robredo said the government’s line of communication is always open to ensure the safe release of the three. He, however, stressed that keeping the lines open does not mean government is entertaining conditions that may be imposed by those holding Atyani’s group.
As early as June 15, former kidnap victim Prof. Octavio Dinampo was able to establish that Atyani’s group was kidnapped by Sahiron’s group, but this was dismissed by Robredo as baseless.
Dinampo’s sources in Sulu were able to trace the white multicab that fetched the group from the Sulu State College Hostel on June 12, to a relative of Sahiron.
“It is only now that the DILG learned that there was a kidnapping. It took 13 days for them to determine that there is a group here that pretends to be a jihadist gangster. The demand is P50 million as relayed to the family of Atyani,” Dinampo said.
“It’s clear that Atyani’s identity as a Muslim does not hold water in Raddulan Sahiron’s jihad,” Dinampo said.
In 2008, Dinampo was among those kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf along with television news anchor Ces Drilon and her two crew members. In the early days of his abduction, authorities did not consider Dinampo as among those kidnapped as he was a Muslim and the one who arranged the interview with Sahiron. Dinampo said instead of bringing them to Sahiron, his local contact identified as Juamil Biyaw, brought them to another group that held them captive.
“Robredo may have thought that by blaming Atyani (for what happened to him), kidnappings in Sulu will vanish subsequently. I believe it’s time for the DILG as a whole to take responsibility for most of our miseries in Sulu,” he added.
Dinampo said Sahiron’s group was also holding Swiss national Lorenzo Vinciguerra and Carlos Tee, a Jolo airport engineer.
Vinciguerra and Dutch Ewold Horn were kidnapped in Tawi-Tawi in February. Dinampo, however, does not have any information about Horn’s whereabouts.
As early as March, there were reports that the two Europeans had been transferred by the Abu Sayyaf to Sulu.
Marine Colonel Jose Johriel Cenabre, commander of Joint Task Force Sulu, said Veetil was not kidnapped, but was killed in a family feud (rido).
“The two European tourists from Tawi-Tawi were never spotted here,” Cenabre said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.