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Indonesia Unlikely to Ask Terrorist to Help With Hostage Negotiations: Sources

Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata
Jakarta
2016-06-30
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Tugboat Charles 001 prepares to dock at Semayang Port in Balikpapan, Indonesia after seven of its crew were taken hostage in the Philippines, June 25, 2016.
Tugboat Charles 001 prepares to dock at Semayang Port in Balikpapan, Indonesia after seven of its crew were taken hostage in the Philippines, June 25, 2016.
Gunawan/BenarNews

Indonesia doesn’t need to involve convicted terrorist Umar Patek in efforts to negotiate the release of seven Indonesians being held hostage in the southern Philippines, a senior counterterrorism official and a military historian said Thursday.

Patek is currently serving a 20-year sentence for his role in the 2002 Bali bombing that killed 202 people. He fled to the Philippines after the bombing and joined Abu Sayyaf, a ruthless group known for taking foreigners hostage and killing some of their captives.

“Involving Umar Patek right now is not so effective. A team representing the government is already there,” Wawan Purwanto, a staff expert at Indonesia's National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT), told BenarNews on Thursday.

Patek was arrested in Pakistan in 2011 and repatriated to Indonesia the same year.

A plan to use his help negotiating with Abu Sayyaf following the kidnapping of 14 Indonesian sailors in March and early April was dropped after being leaked to the media, a source told BenarNews. The men were freed in May.

“I knew them well. Based on a sense of humanity, I offer myself to help the government. This is because the Indonesian government’s calls to the group, with support from the Philippine government, will not be effective. Abu Sayyaf considers the Philippines an enemy,” The Jakarta Post quoted Patek as saying in April.

Armed men snatched seven Indonesian sailors from their tugboat on June 20 in waters near Tawi-Tawi island, as they sailed home after making a coal delivery.

In Jakarta on Monday, Armed Forces chief Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo told reporters that the kidnappers had demanded a ransom of 200 million Philippine pesos, the equivalent of almost 65 billion Indonesian rupiah (U.S. $4.9 million).

He said the hostages were likely being held on Jolo island in the southern Philippines. Authorities believe two different groups are involved.

Iwan Ong, an author and expert on military history, outlined initial steps usually taken in hostage negotiations: establishing contact with hostage-takers, gaining their trust while researching who they are, and demanding evidence that the hostages are still alive.

"While this is going on, there should be media management and a single information source that can satisfy public curiosity without jeopardizing the rescue operation," Iwan told BenarNews.

He dismissed the idea of Indonesia turning to Umar Patek for help.

"There are many people as qualified as Umar Patek with the ability to understand the dialect and the local conditions in the southern Philippines,” he said.

Boundary crossing clarification

Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi travelled to the Philippines Thursday to discuss efforts to release the seven sailors.

She delivered a letter of congratulations from Indonesian President Joko Widodo to the new leader of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, who was sworn in Thursday. Duterte said earlier this week he would consider negotiating with the Abu Sayyaf, which recently beheaded two Canadian hostages after ransom deadlines passed.

"The letter also mentioned the hope that the two countries can work together more strongly in the future, including cooperation on the safety of the vessels sailing through Sulu waters," an Indonesian foreign ministry statement said.

On his last day in office, outgoing Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin clarified that the Philippines had not given Indonesia permission to enter its territory to free the sailors.

"They can only conduct operations of pursuit within our area if the incident occurred within their waters, based on the principle of hot pursuit," Gazmin said Wednesday, according to Philstar.com.

Gazmin was responding to a comment by his Indonesian counterpart Ryamizard Ryacudu after the two men met in Manila on June 26, according to Indonesian media outlet Kompas.com

"The Philippine government allows the pursuit of pirates and terrorists in the southern Philippines and crossing the sea border between Indonesia and the Philippines. All will be conducted within the framework of ASEAN spirit, namely the security and stability of the region," Ryamizard reportedly said at the time.

The 1975 Border Crossing Agreement between the two countries allows Indonesia’s military to enter Philippine waters when chasing pirates from Indonesian waters, and vice versa.

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