By AARON B. RECUENCO
Local authorities are cold in launching search and rescue operations against a Jordanian journalist and his two Filipino companions, even as they suspected that the foreign newsman might have a “secret mission” with the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
Senior Supt. Antonio Freyra, director of the Sulu Provincial Police ofﬁce, said they are not discounting the possibility that Baker Atyani was tasked to funnel fund to the local terror group which he said has been plagued with ﬁnancial constraint.
“There are indications that they have discreet and hidden agenda. Maybe funneling fund, that is a possibility,” said Freyra.
“Why? Because it is difﬁcult now to transfer funds,” he added.
The military earlier declared that the ASG is already dying down because of the vacuum of leadership brought by the death of its key leaders and lack of funds following the busting of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and the aggressive hunt and eventual killing of al-Qaeda leaer Osama bin Laden.
According to reports, Atyani who is connected with the Dubai-based al-Arabiya is widely-known for having interviewed bin Laden three months before the 9/11 attack in the United States.
Freyra said among the indications of close ties between ASG and Atyani was that the latter repeatedly turned down offer for security from both Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan and local police and military ofﬁcers.
The ofﬁcial said that Atyani even duped Tan when the foreigner declared that they will not go out without security.
“They assured the governor that they will not go out without security. But early June 12, we found out that they have already arranged for a vehicle. Clearly, they fooled the government,” said Freyra.
The ofﬁcial said they also received information that Atyani and his two companions were fetched for the interview with some ASG officials.
The PNP leadership earlier revealed that Atyani was planning to interview Yasser Igasan, the spiritual leader of the remaining ASG in Sulu.
“They will not go out and go with them if they were not assured of their safety,” said Freyra.
As such, Freyra said the police, along with the military and the local chief executives including is Gov. Tan, are not convinced that Atyani was kidnapped.
Freyra said there has never any conﬁrmation so far that the three victims were kidnapped.