ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani and his two Filipino companions – Ramelito Vela and Rolando Letrero – remain alive at the Abu Sayyaf lair in Sulu, where they have been held since June 12, according to sources.
In fact, a video showing the foreign journalist was sent out by the extremist group.
Rommel Banlaoi, executive director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR), said in a video he saw over the weekend – which he described as very short – Atyani was shown talking to an unidentified man.
He said the Jordanian appeared thin.
“I had a chance to see the video footage, it was very short and he was just talking to someone about the history of Muslims in the Philippines. But I don’t know the exact date the video was taken,” Banlaoi said.
A government source, who requested anonymity for lack of authority to speak on the matter, said Atyani’s video was taken last month and was given to authorities. He would not say who the video’s source was or to whom it was handed.
But police authorities said they have not seen the video yet.
“So far, we haven’t seen any video related to Atyani,” Chief Superintendent Mario Avenido, chief of police of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said.
Chief Superintendent Manuel Barcena, head of the Directorate for Integrated Police Operations (DIPO) in Western Mindanao, also denied knowledge about the Atyani video.
“We still have to verify that report,” he said.
DIPO Western Mindanao handles all kidnapping cases in Mindanao.
Prof. Octavio Dinampo, coordinator of the Bantay Ceasefire in Sulu, said his sources had reported that Atyani and the two Filipinos were supposed to be freed before Saturday.
However, the ransom courier was having a hard time reaching the lair of Nadzmer Alih, the Abu Sayyaf leader holding the three men, because of intelligence operatives tailing him.
“The courier is now trying to dictate the place of the drop point,” he said.
Some reports said the Islamic extremists were asking P50 million for Atyani’s freedom but these had not been verified.