MANILA, Philippines - Foreign negotiators have secured the safe release of Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani who, however, has refused to leave without his two Filipino cameramen.
Sources revealed that foreign negotiators delivered a huge amount to Sulu for Atyani’s freedom.
“Actually, he was already allowed to go, but he declined to leave because his Filipino crewmembers are still being held by their kidnappers,” one of the sources, who asked not to be named, said yesterday.
Atyani and cameramen Rolando Letrero and Ramelito Vela were reported missing last June 12 after they failed to return to their hostel in Sulu.
The three were in Sulu supposedly to do a documentary on the Abu Sayyaf for the Dubai-based Al Arabiya television network.
They were supposed to cover the release of one of six foreign hostages being held by the bandit group.
It was learned earlier that while Atyani was allowed to roam around in captivity, his captors placed his crew under heavy guard.
“Based on information we have gathered so far, he (Atyani) refused to leave without his two Filipino crewmembers,” the source said.
The source said everything had been arranged for Atyani’s transfer to Malaysia.
Security officials also reported Atyani was monitored to be freely moving around along with armed groups, interviewing the foreign hostages and their Abu Sayyaf captors.
The source also confirmed the foreign negotiators made a counter demand with Atyani’s abductors that he be allowed to film and interview the Abu Sayyaf leaders in exchange for the huge amount of ransom money they were demanding.
It was learned that the kidnappers demanded P50 million for Atyani’s release.
For more than a month now, at least two armed groups under the direct control of Tahil Sali have been holding Atyani and his crew captive in the jungles of Patikul.
Sali, a close relative of Abu Sayyaf commander Radullan Sahiron, also has links with political warlords as well as the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).