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Abu Sayyaf gunmen abduct 10 Indonesians, demand P50M

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—Ten Indonesians were abducted by Abu Sayyaf gunmen in Sulu waters, and a Philippine military source said the gunmen had demanded a ransom of P50 million.

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In Jakarta, the Indonesian foreign ministry said the owner of the hijacked tugboat and a coal barge had received two telephone calls from the Abu Sayyaf demanding the ransom.

The hijacking was the latest reminder of insecurity plaguing border regions of the two countries.

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The Abu Sayyaf is a ragtag band of self-styled Islamists who have become notorious for kidnapping, bombing and beheading activities.

The Indonesians were transporting coal from Borneo island to the Philippines when they were hijacked, said Indonesia’s foreign ministry spokesperson Arrmanatha Nasir.

The victims were crew members of the tugboat Brahman 12, which was sailing near Tambulian Island in Tapul town when gunmen men boarded the vessel, according to reports received by Maj. Gen. Demy Tejares, deputy commander of Task Force Zambasulta (Zamboanga-Basilan-Sulu and Tawi-Tawi).

Tejares said the gunmen were led by the brothers Nickson and Brown Muktadil, both belonging to the Abu Sayyaf Group of Alhabsy Misaya.

Using a smaller vessel, the Muktadils towed the tugboat. The tugboat was later recovered in the coastal village of Tubig Dakula in Languyan,  Tawi-Tawi, the source said.

There were conflicting reports as to when the incident happened. Tejares said it happened Monday night but another military source said it occurred on Saturday afternoon.

Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., spokesperson for the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said he could not give details of the abduction.

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Armed Forces Chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri flew to the area to check and issue directives. Tan said Iriberri, who will be retiring on April 22, also went to Sulu for a farewell visit.

Explanation demanded

Sulu Vice Gov. Abdusakur Tan demanded an explanation why foreigners could easily be abducted in Sulu waters when troops were supposedly patrolling this sea.

“The military and police must explain first why there were Indonesians in Sulu waters,” Tan said. “How come these pirates were able to detect tugboats and the Indonesians when our authorities were supposedly equipped with monitoring equipment?”

The Inquirer source said the Indonesians were employed on a tugboat working on vessels engaged in  illegal mining in Tawi-Tawi.

Local politicians and military officers were allegedly involved in the mining, a source said.

Identities of captives

The captives were identified as Peter Tonsen Barahama, Julian Philip, Alvian Elvis Peti, Mahmud, Surian Syah, Surianto, Wawan Saputra, Bayu Oktavianto, Reynaldi and Wendi Raknadian.

One of the crew members, using a Taiwanese line, supposedly called the ship owner to inform him that they had been taken by gunmen, the source  said.

The kidnap victims are now either in Sulu or Basilan.

The military has been at the forefront of a campaign against the bandit group, which persists despite the deaths and capture of its leaders.

There are now 24 captives in the hands of the kidnap-for-ransom gang in Sulu.

Still held captive

Still in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf are Ewold Horn (Dutch), cousins Hajan Perong and Joshua Bani (Filipino fish traders of Tawi-Tawi), Toshio Ito (Japanese treasure hunter), Yahong Tan Lim (Chinese), Dennis Cabadunga (Filipino businessman), John Ridsdel (Canadian), Robert Hall (Canadian), Kjartan Sekkingstand (Norwegian), Marites Flor (Filipino), Rolando del Torchio (Italian), Antonio Tan and grandson Ray (Filipino-Chinese businessmen), and Ronnie Bancale (Filipino fish trader).

“The AFP is doing all it can to identify the group behind this and to rescue the victims,” AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

He said a “high-level consultation” was being conducted between the Philippines and Indonesia.

On Monday morning, the tugboat Brahma 12 drifted off the coast of Languyan, Tawi-Tawi. Policemen boarded it but no one was aboard.

The kidnappers supposedly used a motorized banca powered by three outboard motor engines to carry out their operation.

One report said the abduction happened late Saturday night.

Padilla said the tugboat was practically empty as even the navigational equipment and the crew’s personal possessions had been taken by the gunmen.

Good luck wishes

“There is information pointing to Sulu as the destination so we’re monitoring it,” Tejares said.

Brahma 12 and the Anand 12 barge were coming from Sungai Putting in Kalimantan, which is the Indonesian part of Borneo island, to Batangas province.

The Facebook page of the Brahma 12’s captain, Barahama, shows smiling photos of him and the crew on the vessel preparing for the voyage and good luck wishes from friends commenting on a port clearance document he posted.

The document shows the vessel and its barge left southern Kalimantan on March 15.

Indonesia’s foreign ministry believes the barge carrying about 7,000 tons of coal is still under the control of the hostage-takers.

 

April 8 deadline

In a video posted on a Facebook account linked to the militants, they threatened to kill the hostages unless a huge ransom was paid by April 8. The Philippine military said the government’s no-ransom policy remains.

Indonesia has been helping the Philippines forge a peace agreement with Filipino Muslim rebels by sending soldiers to join an international oversight group that helps monitor government and rebel adherence to a cease-fire.

Tejares said the military was checking information that an Abu Sayyaf subgroup led by Al Habsi Misaya was behind the abduction. Misaya is a sub-commander of Rahullan Sahiron.

Indonesia’s priority

In Jakarta, Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told reporters she was working with Indonesian officials and Philippine authorities to coordinate a rescue.

“Our priority is the safety of 10 Indonesian nationals who are now still in the hands of the hostage-takers,” she said.

The Abu Sayyaf, which is on US and Philippine lists of terrorist organizations, is notorious for bombings, extortion and kidnappings in the south of the Philippines. It has been weakened by years of US-backed Philippine offensives but remains a security threat. With reports from Karlos Manlupig, Inquirer Mindanao; AP and AFP

 

 

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TAGS: Abu Sayyaf, Abu Sayyaf gunmen, Arrmanatha Nasir, Borneo Island, hijacking, Philippine military source, Ransom
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