Rebel group frees German reporter; five other journalists still held hostage

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New York, July 27, 2000 — Andreas Lorenz, the Der Spiegel reporter who was captured by armed rebels on the southern island of Jolo on July 2, was released today. He is currently en route to Hamburg with his wife, Jutta, and Der Spiegel foreign editor Olaf Ihlau.

Lorenz had been held alone and incommunicado for 25 days by a splinter faction of the militant Islamic group Abu Sayyaf, according to Der Spiegel. The faction numbers fewer than ten members and is led by a commander known as “The Rat.”

Abu Sayyaf is a loose association of several hundred Muslim guerrillas fighting for a separate Islamic state in the southern Philippines. Various factions are believed to be holding more than 30 hostages, including five journalists. All the journalists were abducted while reporting on the hostage crisis, which began April 23 with the abduction of 21 people from a resort on the nearby Malaysian island of Sipadan. “We are relieved that Andreas Lorenz is free,” said Ann Cooper, executive director of CPJ. “However, we are still extremely worried about the condition of the remaining five journalists held hostage on Jolo.”

On July 9, rebels loyal to Abu Sayyaf commander Galib Andang kidnapped three French journalists: reporter Maryse Burgot and cameramen Jean-Jacques Le Garrec and Roland Madura, all from the television station France 2. Andang is the lead negotiator for the Abu Sayyaf and has admitted to holding both the France 2 team and the remaining hostages from the Malaysian resort.

On July 24, two local journalists—cameraman Val Cuenca and researcher/writer Maan Macapagal of the Philippine network ABS-CBN—were abducted from the village of Upper Kahunayan near Patikul town, an area controlled by the same Abu Sayyaf faction that kidnapped Lorenz.

This is the second time Lorenz has been detained by rebels on Jolo. In early June, Abu Sayyaf rebels held 10 foreign journalists, including Lorenz, for 10 hours until the journalists pooled together their own funds to pay a US$25,000 ransom.

Der Spiegel has not commented on the circumstances of Lorenz’s release, and did not disclose whether any ransom was paid.

As of today, there were no foreign journalists stationed on Jolo. Most are reporting from nearby Zamboanga City, using local stringers based in Jolo town. CPJ has been told that concern for the safety of both the foreign and local journalists is mounting. Some news agencies are contemplating a complete pull-out from the area if security conditions do not improve.