Al Arabiya’s Baker Atyani tells story of his kidnap ordeal

Baker Atyani vows to continue working as a journalist without fear

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Al Arabiya’s veteran correspondent Baker Atyani who was kidnapped and held by Filipino Islamist rebels for 18 months vowed on Thursday to continue chasing the truth without fear.

“I was on a journalistic mission and I do not regret it. It was a tragic and a painful experience, but it gave me more strength and faith to deliver the truth to people,” Atyani said in a program aired on Al Arabiya News Channel Thursday.

Atyani, a Jordanian journalist who interviewed Osama bin Laden months before the Sept. 11 attacks, had travelled to Manila on June 5, 2012 to shoot two documentary films, including one on the living conditions of Muslims in the south of the Philippines.

After his kidnap he was held in the Sulu Islands in the Philippine province of Mindanao. On Dec. 4, 2013 Atyani became free after he managed escape from his captors.

Appearing on Al Arabiya’s Panorama program Thursday, Atyani recounted his dreadful experience.

“Abu Sayyef groups have no ties to the religion of Islam and its values. They resemble a gang - an organized crime group, kind of a mafia that relies on kidnapping foreigners to demand ransoms,” Atyani said.

Most members are illiterate, speak their native language only, and seem to be isolated from the outside world, he added.

"They live in forests and they lack awareness when it comes to the world around them. One member was surprised when I once told him we are approaching year 2013. He replied saying, aren’t we in 2007?"

Atyani said the militants are using Islam as an umbrella to commit crimes and kidnap people, regardless of their religion.

“They lacked the basic understanding of Islamic values, which idealize humanity and humility,” he said.

Life under abduction

Atyani said his kidnappers did not physically abuse him the psychological harm was major.

He said he tried to escape more than once, but was placed in a small hut in solitary confinement for three months.

Many local residents he said are forced to show loyalty and obey Abu Sayyaf in exchange for protection.

To watch the full interview, please click here