MANILA (Reuters) - Twenty-one people have been killed in the Philippines during an apparently unsuccessful bid to rescue a Jordanian journalist kidnapped by Islamist rebels eight months ago, Philippine security officials said on Monday.
Members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), a group of former Muslim rebels who have made peace with the government, attacked jungle bases of the Abu Sayyaf group on Jolo island to free Jordanian Baker Atyani, said Antonio Freyra, a police chief in the area.
Atyani, a journalist working for the Al Arabiyah network, and his two Filipino television crew members were taken captive in June while reporting in the area.
“Based on our information, the MNLF lost eight members and the Abu Sayyaf suffered 13 casualties,” Freyra told reporters.
“We have no information on the fate of the Jordanian journalist,” he said.
Atyani’s two Filipino colleagues were freed on Saturday. Authorities said they could not say if ransom was paid for them.
An army spokesman, Colonel Arnulfo Burgos, said the military was not involved in the rescue bid but sent troops to help evacuate residents who fled from the area and to prevent the fighting from spreading.
About 60 families in the Patikul area were relocated temporarily because of the clash, he said.
Jolo island in the Philippine south is a stronghold for the Abu Sayyaf rebels who are notorious for kidnappings and sometimes killing captives.
The militants are also holding an Australian, one Swiss, one Dutch and one Japanese person on Jolo and nearby Basilan islands.
Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Editing by Robert Birsel