MANILA: Philippine authorities have arrested one of the suspects in the June 2012 kidnapping of veteran Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani, it was announced Thursday.
Col. Jonnel Estomo, director of the Philippine National Police-Anti Kidnapping Group, identified the suspect as Nasirin Baladji, alias Zaed, a religious preacher and reportedly a ranking member of the ASG.
Baladji, according to the police, is listed as the third priority in the AKG Mindanao Field Unit wanted list. He was arrested on Wednesday, Sept. 25, in a joint military and police operation.
Estomo said the suspect’s arrest came after six months of surveillance. On Wednesday, he was finally nabbed at his house in Barangay Canacan, Purok C Kabasalan, Zamboanga Sibugay province.
The arresting personnel were armed with an arrest warrant for kidnapping with ransom issued by Zamboanga Sibugay Regional Trial Court.
Baladji has been identified as one of the suspects in the kidnapping of Atyani on June 12, 2012 in Jolo, Sulu.
Atyani, who was then in the country making a documentary on Mindanao and the Muslims of the southern Philippines, was supposed to interview an ASG leader in Sulu island but ended up being held hostage by the bandit group.
The journalist managed to escape after 18 months in captivity.
Aside from the case of the Jordanian journalist, police said Baladji is also involved in the kidnapping of Rolando Del Torchio, an Italian retired Catholic priest, on Oct. 7, 2015 in Dipolog City, and Elmer Romoc on Aug. 5, 2016 in Zamboanga Sibugay province.
Del Torchio, an Italian restaurant owner and retired priest, was released by the bandit group after after holding him for six months.
He had worked as a missionary for the international organization PIME in the southern Philippines from 1998 before retiring in 2000 to set up his restaurant.
Romoc, a government employee, was released in Sulu province after three months in the hands of the ASG.