Philippines says Jordanian journalist held captive in south

Updated 25 June 2012
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Philippines says Jordanian journalist held captive in south

MANILA: A Jordanian journalist and two Filipinos hired to help him with reporting are being held captive on an island in the southern Philippines by a one-armed leader of the Islamist militant group Abu Sayyaf, the interior secretary said on Sunday.
Jesse Robredo said that Baker Atyani, an Islamabad-based journalist for Middle East broadcast network Al-Arabiya, and two colleagues, are being held by militant Radullan Saheron on Jolo island.
“They are now being held against their will,” Robredo told reporters in a text message. “There was no mention of ransom, but one of the Filipino captives called his wife and asked the latter to contact his company.”
The two Filipinos, Rolando Letrero and Ramelito Vela, work for a Manila-based media production house and were hired by Atyani. Al-Arabiya said it has lost contact with Atyani.
Robredo said they presumed that the captive crew was asking something from his employers, “but, we cannot say outrightly if its ransom. We are keeping our lines open for communication.”
Saheron is one of two remaining Philippines Islamist militant leaders on the US State Department’s terrorist watch list. The other is Isnilon Hapilon. Washington has put up to $5 million bounty on their capture dead or alive.
The Philippines initially denied Atyani was a hostage, even though the Jordanian foreign ministry issued a statement last week saying he was a captive in the southern Philippines.
Atyani arrived on June 11 at the island stronghold of Abu Sayyaf, notorious for kidnap-for-ransom and for beheading captives. The militants are now holding two Chinese, an Australian, two Europeans and a Japanese as captives on Jolo and nearby Basilan islands.
The next day, Atyani and his crew were seen boarding a mini-bus to the island’s interior, seeking an interview with Yasser Igasan, an Islamist militant leader with connections to Al-Qaeda and Southeast Asian militant network Jemaah Islamiya.


Seven injured in massive blaze at German theme park

Updated 49 min 47 sec ago
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Seven injured in massive blaze at German theme park

  • It took 250 firefighters until the next morning to extinguish the inferno, which sent huge columns of black smoke into the air.
  • The cause of the blaze remains under investigation

FRANKFURT: Seven firefighters were injured in efforts to put out a massive blaze at Germany’s largest amusement park, police said Sunday, as it reopened to visitors despite extensive damage to some areas.
The fire at Europa-Park started early Saturday evening in a storage facility before engulfing the Pirates of Batavia boat ride, completely destroying the attraction.
It took some 250 firefighters until the next morning to extinguish the inferno, which sent huge columns of black smoke into the air.
Dramatic images of the raging fire were widely captured by visitors to the theme park in Rust, southwestern Germany and shared on social media.
Some 25,000 people had to be evacuated from the park, but none suffered any injuries.
The local Offenburg police said in a statement that the blaze had left seven firefighters “lightly injured,” without giving details.
All of them were able to leave hospital after receiving medical attention.
Europa-park opened its doors as normal on Sunday, although large sections of the Dutch and Scandinavian-themed areas remain closed because of fire damage.
Europa-park’s chief executive Michael Mack tweeted his thanks for the rescue services, saying Saturday had been “a sad day” for the park.
The cause of the fire is still unknown. Police said some firefighters remained at the scene to carry out damping down operations and secure the area to allow experts to assess the damage.
Founded in 1975, Europa-Park is Europe’s second-most popular amusement park after Disneyland, attracting some 5.7 million visitors last year.