No Ransom Paid to Win Release of 3 Indonesian Sailors: Defense Minister

Tia Asmara
160919_ID_ASG_1000.jpg Three Indonesians (far left, front row) and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad join Moro National Liberation Front leader Nur Misuari and others after their release by the Abu Sayyaf Group in Sulu province, southern Philippines, Sept. 18, 2016.

Three Indonesian sailors held hostage for 10 weeks by Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) militants in the southern Philippines were freed over the weekend without any ransom being paid, Indonesia’s defense minister said.

They regained their freedom a day after the militant group released Norwegian national Kjartan Sekkingstad, according to reports.

“I feel so relieved that now we are free because I was thinking that I would be beheaded,” Freed Indonesian hostage Teodorus Kopong Koten, 42, said according to Philippine news website

ASG, which has pledged its allegiance to Islamic State (IS), is still holding six Indonesians captive. Five crew members of the Charles tugboat, who were kidnapped in the waters of Tawi-Tawi in the southern Philippines on June 20, are identified as Ferry Arifin, Muh Mahbrur Dahri, Edi Suryono, Muh Nasir and Robin Piter. Two of their crew, Ismail and Muhamad Sofyan, reportedly escaped from ASG custody on Aug. 17.

Another Indonesian, Herman Manggak, the captain of a Malaysian-flagged ship, was abducted at sea on Aug. 3.

Among other hostages, five Malaysians who were abducted from their ship off the coast of the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah remain in the hands of Abu Sayyaf militants in the southern Philippines, Wan Abdul Bari Abdul Khalid, who heads the Eastern Sabah Security Command, told BenarNews on Monday.

He said the captives were alive but he could not provide more details.

The release of the Norwegian hostage and three Indonesians occurred even as the Philippines and neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia have yet to begin joint maritime patrols to halt kidnappings by ASG and other militant groups in the Sulu and Celebes seas that separate the countries. In June, the three nations agreed to coordinate such efforts.

Abu Sayyaf has a reputation for executing hostages when its ransom demands are not met. Within the past year, ASG beheaded two Canadians and a Malaysian, Bernard Then.

Sekkingstad was abducted from a Philippine resort a year ago along with John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, the Canadians who were later beheaded by their ASG captors, Agence France-Presse reported.

When the two were killed in April and June, the Norwegian said he was close enough “that you could hear the cries when it happened,” AFP quoted him as saying.

‘Very hard life’


The three freed Indonesians, Lorens Lagadoni Koten, 34, Teodorus Kopong Koten, 42, and Emanuel Arakian Maran, 46, are residents of East Nusa Tenggara province. They were among the crew of a Malaysian tug boat who were kidnapped in the waters of Lahad Datu, Sabah state, on July 9.

After their release, Teodorus told reporters of their life in captivity, reported.

“That is why we request the Philippine and Indonesian governments keep conducting operations and as soon as possible to crush the ASG,” he said.

The hostages were turned over to envoy Jesus Dureza on Jolo island, according to AFP. The transfer took place at the heavily guarded camp of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari, whose group assisted in the release, according to Philippine officials.

Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu, who traveled to Zamboanga, Philippines, thanked Nur’s group.

“We appreciate the assistance of the MNLF. They know very well the terrain, they are very professional and they know what to do,” Ryamizard told reporters on Sunday night, according to


Ryamizard said the release resulted from cooperation between both countries’ militaries and ministries of defense.

“This is a realization of the follow-up on the trilateral agreement between Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia that signed in Bali some time ago,” he said in an official press release, in which he stated that no ransom was paid to secure the sailors’ freedom.

“What is for sure that the governments of Indonesia and the Philippines did not spend any penny to pay the ransom,” Ryamizard said. “If we obey them [their demand to pay a ransom], it means we are under their power,” Ryamizard said.

Still, media in the Philippines reported that a ransom of about 30 million Philippines pesos (8.2 billion Indonesian rupiah; U.S. $620,000) had been paid to ASG.

Ryamizard said the three released hostages immediately returned to Indonesia. Meanwhile, efforts continue to free the remaining hostages.

Muzliza Mustaffa in Kuala Lumpur contributed to this report.


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