From The Star Online (Mar 31): Hostages’ release sought
JAKARTA: The government is seeking the immediate release of 10 Indonesian sailors believed to be held hostage by hard-line militant group Abu Sayyaf, as Jakarta coordinates with Manila on whether the situation should be handled by Philippine or Indonesian authorities.
The foreign ministry was alerted to the abduction of Indonesian sailors from two boats in waters near the Philippines on Monday.
Preliminary information suggests that two Indonesian-flagged vessels, Brahma 12 and Anand 12, were manned by a total of 10 crewmen and carried a combined 7,000 tons of coal. The boats are known to have departed for Batangas in South Philippines from the Puting river in South Kalimantan.
Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung said that regardless of the motive, whether the alleged ransom was aimed at funding Abu Sayyaf or for economic reasons, “what is clear is that in this case, the government should not be afraid of robbers”.
Abu Sayyaf is one of the most hard-line militant groups in the Muslim south of the largely Catholic Philippines.
Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi said she was in touch with parties on both sides, including the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs, to secure the hostages’ release.
“Our immediate priority is the safety of all 10 Indonesians taken hostage. The company (that owns the vessels) has informed the families of the 10 crewmen,” Retno said.
She said it was uncertain when the vessels were hijacked but noted that the shipowners had been informed on Saturday after receiving a call by someone claiming to be part of a group led by Abu Sayyaf.
National Police Chief General Badrodin Haiti confirmed that Jakarta and Manila were coordinating to decide which side would handle the hostage release and to ascertain whether the captors were indeed linked to Abu Sayyaf.
Philippine military spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla earlier said the military had received initial information on the missing crewmen from a foreign vessel in the Zambasulta area, adding that authorities were still in the process of validating that information.
Retno said the tugboat Brahma 12 had been released and reclaimed by Philippine authorities, while the whereabouts of the other vessel and all 10 crewmen were unknown.
The abductors had called the shipowners twice to demand a ransom, she added. — The Jakarta Post/ Asia News Network