German journalist is kidnapped by rebel faction

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New York, July 3, 2000– A German journalist was kidnapped at gunpoint on July 2 in the southern island of Jolo in the Philippines, according to international news reports.

Andreas Lorenz, a 48-year-old Beijing-based reporter for the German news magazine Der Spiegel, was last seen by police intelligence officers on Monday, July 3. He was spotted in a camp run by Radulan Sajiron, one of the leaders of the rebel group Abu Sayyaf. The separatist Muslim rebel group has been holding 20 hostages abducted from Sipadan, Malaysia, since April 23.

According to a report by Associated Press, an Abu Sayyaf spokesman has denied that the group abducted Lorenz and said that he did not know who was responsible for his abduction.

Der Spiegel editors have not received any demands from Lorenz’s captors. Lorenz was on Jolo to cover the kidnapping of the hostages, three of whom are German nationals.

According to a report filed by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Lorenz had been trying to arrange an interview with the hostages since June 27 and had sent messages to rebel leaders and to a German hostage via the Inquirer. One of the rebel leaders suggested that Lorenz visit the camp, but according to the Inquirer, made no definite arrangements for such a visit.

Lorenz’s driver, Yahco Paradji, told wire services that Lorenz had indeed met with some men in Jolo town who said they would take him to the hostages. Lorenz and Paradji left the Cooperative Inn at 4:00 p.m. in the company of four men armed with pistols. The group drove from Jolo to Kasalamatan village near Patikul town in Lorenz’s rented van. At Kasalamatan, the armed men forced Lorenz out of the van and led him away at gunpoint. Paradji was ordered back to Jolo. Lorenz was reportedly struck with a pistol when he tried to resist the rebels. A report by Reuters quoted an eyewitness who saw Lorenz being kicked and hit with a gun.

Lorenz was kidnapped once before by Abu Sayyaf guerrillas in early June with nine other foreign journalists. Together, the journalists paid a ransom of $25,000 for their release.

“We are very concerned by the kidnapping of Andreas Lorenz,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of CPJ. “We call on those responsible for his abduction to release him immediately.”

Some Philippine government officials criticized Lorenz for complicating the hostage situation, said the Philippine Daily Inquirer. One official quoted by the Inquirer said he would not encourage the Philippine government to take responsibility for Lorenz’s safety, and called on the German government to secure his release. An editor from Der Spiegel is on his way to Manila.

“We are alarmed by some Philippine officials’ attitude,” said Cooper. “Lorenz was abducted while doing his job as a journalist. This profession can be dangerous and every government should take responsibility for the safety of the press.”