Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry confirmed Tuesday that 10 crew members of an Indonesian tugboat were being held by the Abu Sayyaf Group, a militant group in the southern Philippines.
Abu Sayyaf had hijacked two Indonesian tugboats but the group had freed one of the two crews, Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi said in a statement.
“The Brahma 12 has been released and now is in the hands of Philippine authorities. Meanwhile the Anand 12 ship and the 10 crew members are still in the hands of the hostage-takers, but it is not known exactly where they are,” Retno added, noting that the Anand 12 was transporting 7,000 tons of coal.
Retno confirmed the abduction of the 10 Indonesian sailors, following an investigation and communication with the ships’ owner and people in Indonesia and the Philippines. She said received the initial information on Monday.
Both ships were hijacked while traveling from Putting River in Kalimantan, Indonesia to Batangas in the southern Philippines.
Retno said she did not know more specific details about the hijackings.
The ships’ owner received a call on Saturday from someone claiming to be a member of Abu Sayyaf, a group known for kidnapping and holding foreigners hostage for ransom – and, in some cases, killings their captives. The United States has listed Abu Sayyaf as a foreign terrorist group.
In the case of the ship’s hijacking, the hostage takers contacted its owner twice to demand an undisclosed ransom, according to the foreign ministry.
The Abu Sayyaf demanded 50 million Philippine pesos (U.S. $1.08 million) in ransom money, Indonesian State Intelligence Agency chief Sutiyoso told The Straits Times.
“Our priority is the safety of 10 Indonesian citizens who are now still in the hands of the hostage-takers. The company has passed the information to the families of the crew members that were taken hostage,” Retno said.
During a news conference, she said she was communicating with Indonesian and Philippine authorities to coordinate a rescue.
Meanwhile, Indonesian Seafarers Association Chairman Hanafi Rustandi confirmed that the crew members were being held hostage by the militant group. He said both tugboats were operated by a coal mining company.
Hanafi said the water near Kalimantan and Sulawesi that forms a triangle linking Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines was dangerous, because many islands in the region were Abu Sayyaf strongholds.
“They always find a way to get supplies, food – one is by hijacking a vessel,” Hanafi told BenarNews.
He said the time needed to free the hostage crew members could not be predicted because that depended on Indonesian diplomacy and the willingness of the ship’s owner to pay a ransom.
“If the company wants it quickly, people in the company could pay, because they have the responsibility to dispatch the goods. Meanwhile, the families of the sailors need to be patient, because the case is being dealt by the government,” Hanafi said.