MANILA, Philippines - A Jordanian journalist who has gone missing in Sulu could have been carrying cash for the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group, a local official said Thursday.
The mayor of Jolo, Sulu was interviewed by veteran Middle Eastern TV reporter Baker Atyani, before he disappeared with his 2 Filipino companions.
Mayor Husin Amin believes Atyani has connections with the Abu Sayyaf.
ABS-CBN News found the last interview conducted by Atyani and his 2 Filipino cameramen, a day before they went missing in Sulu.
Atyani wanted to find out from Amin the reason why the Abu Sayyaf continues to thrive despite the operations of the military.
"They are children of war, grew up without parents without education. They do not know anything but violence," Amin said in the video.
In his follow-up question, Atyani asked the mayor how the terror group can be stopped.
Amin answered that only through education and alternative means of livelihood can the Abu Sayyaf's influence end.
Based on his questions, Amin said he had no reason to doubt that Atyani was a legitimate journalist.
But after finding out that the Jordanian was one of the reporters who interviewed then Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and that Atyani he has already visited Sulu several times, Amin expressed doubts on Atyani's real intentions.
"May koneksiyon siya sa Abu Sayyaf, kasi una ginago kami. Malay mo taga-dala ng pera iyan sa Abu Sayyaf," the mayor said.
The local government is now looking at 3 angles -- either Atyani was kidnapped, allowed his group to be kidnapped, or that he has links to the Abu Sayyaf.
For the relatives of the Filipino cameraman, whatever Atyani's purpose is, they ask their kin be left out of it.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, meanwhile, asked government officials not to link Atyani to the Abu Sayyaf unless they
The NUJP said security forces might see Atyani as a member of the terror group, putting his life at risk.
An official of the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) also criticized Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo for wanting to ban Atyani from the country.
"This reflects the government's inability to protect journalists. Dapat 'di ito mangyari sa isang demokratikong bansa tulad sa Pilipinas," said KBP Camarines Sur president Elmer Abad. - reports from Jay Ruiz, ABS-CBN News; ANC