Indonesia Urges Malaysia, Philippines to Launch Joint Patrols

Tia Asmara
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160711-my-kidnap-620.jpg Three Indonesian sailors were kidnapped Saturday night from these boats in the waters off Lahad Datu, in the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah.
Courtesy Royal Malaysia Police

Indonesia’s government Monday confirmed that Abu Sayyaf militants had kidnapped three Indonesian sailors off the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah, and called on Malaysia and the Philippines to stop more hijackings and abductions by launching joint maritime patrols at once.

“Indonesia cannot tolerate this incident and we ask the governments of Philippines and Malaysia for their strong efforts to secure their land and sea,” Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told reporters in Jakarta on Monday. “Especially to the Philippines government, we ask their help in freeing the Indonesian hostages immediately.”

The Saturday night abduction of the three Indonesians from Malaysian-registered tugboats sailing off Lahad Datu, Sabah, brought to 10 the number of Indonesian sailors abducted by Southern Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) militants in two separate hijackings since June 20 in the waters that separate the three countries, according to Indonesian officials.

Earlier this year four Malaysian sailors and 14 Indonesian sailors were abducted but later released after three hijackings carried out by ASG and another southern Philippine militant group.

At a trilateral meeting in Jakarta on May 5, the foreign ministers of the three countries agreed to stop the hijackings and abductions along their common sea boundaries, including by mounting joint maritime patrols.

Last month, defense ministers from the governments in Jakarta, Manila and Kuala Lumpur met in the Philippine capital to discuss the plan further, including coordinating air-sea patrols. However, the three neighbors have yet to implement their plan.

Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo, the chief of the Indonesian armed forces, said that Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu was due to meet with his Philippine and Malaysian counterparts on Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur to discuss the latest hostage crisis and to follow up on the earlier trilateral talks.

“So, now I would like to emphasize that it is urgent to start cooperating,” the military chief told reporters in Jakarta on Monday, following an emergency meeting with Retno and other officials over the crisis.

“If we are asked to go there to release the hostages, we will be prepared. We are also ready for the joint patrol. Whatever we are asked, we are ready for it,” Gatot added. “The Philippine government has given the green light for Indonesia to do joint military operations, but not in writing yet.”

Perilous waters

In Saturday’s incident off Lahad Datu, the three abductees were taken to the Sulu Archipelago in the southern Philippines, according to Sabah Police Commissioner Abdul Rashid Harun, who cited Philippine intelligence reports.

The crewmembers were abducted by five armed men who were dressed in black and wore black face paint, he said. Four other crewmembers – three Malaysians and an Indonesian – were released and allowed to sail home, he said.

“We are investigating together with the authorities of Indonesia and the Philippines in tracking the terrorist group involved in the latest abductions,” Abdul told BenarNews.

Many of the abductions that have occurred in recent months in waters that separate the southern Philippines from northern Borneo island have been linked to Abu Sayyaf, a militant group that has pledge allegiance to the extremist group Islamic State (IS).

Before Saturday’s kidnapping, seven crew members of an Indonesian tugboat were abducted on June 20 as they sailed in the waters off Tawi Tawi, in the southern Philippines.

ASG recently executed two Canadians whom it had abducted after deadlines for ransom expired.

In the cases of the 14 Indonesian ex-hostages who were freed in May, the Indonesian government claimed that no ransom money was paid to secure their release.

However, according to an Indonesian analyst, Abu Sayyaf is “addicted to” the financial benefit that it can reap from ransom money, and therefore is likely to carry out more abductions.

“When there is a chance and the opportunity to act, they will do so with the hope of getting a ransom,” Harits Abu Ulya, a terrorism expert with the Community of Ideological Islamic Analysts (CIIA), told BenarNews.

Hata Wahari in Kuala Lumpur contributed to this report.


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