THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has mobilized its troops to go after a group that abducted 10 Indonesian sailors in southern Mindanao.
Intelligence reports said the victims were taken to Sulu province there.
Initial information reaching the office of the Joint Task Force Zambasulta (Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi) revealed that the Indonesians were snatched by the group led by Alhabshy Misaya, sub-commander of Radullan Sahiron, top commander of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Sulu.
Troops from the Western Mindanao Command and members of the task force were ordered to put pressure on the bandit group into releasing the captives.
Maj. Gen. Demy Tejares, task force commander, said intelligence groups continue to validate all information coming in about the abduction.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said the Islamic militants have demanded a ransom for their victims’ release.
The Indonesians were traveling on two boats that were transporting coal from Borneo island to the Philippines when they were hijacked.
It is not clear when the vessels — a tugboat and a barge — were hijacked but the boats’ owners received a ransom call from someone claiming to be from the Abu Sayyaf militant group on Saturday, she said.
The Abu Sayyaf, notorious for bombings and kidnappings, has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or ISIS.
Marsudi said the hijackers have contacted the boats’ owners twice since Saturday and have sought a ransom but refused to say how much was demanded.
“Our priority is the safety of the 10 Indonesians who are being held hostage, we will keep working hard to save them,” the minister told reporters, saying she had been in touch with her Philippine counterpart.
It is unclear where the barge Anand 12 and the crew are being held by the kidnappers but the tugboat Brahma 12 had been released to Philippine authorities, she added.
AFP chief Hernando Iriberri flew to the main Army base in Mindanao to check on the situation and discuss what steps should be taken, his spokesman, Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, said.
Keith Loveard, a senior risk analyst at Concord Consulting in Jakarta, said it was surprising to hear that the Abu Sayyaf had abducted sailors from Indonesia, which has the world’s biggest Muslim population.
“They have normally gone for tourists and other Filipinos,” he told Agence France-Presse. “If we assume for the moment these are probably Muslim sailors, they might have an easier time than otherwise.”
The Abu Sayyaf was founded in the 1990s and has been blamed for some of the Philippines’ worst terror attacks.
It has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States.
Last year, the militants beheaded a Malaysian man after abducting him from a seaside restaurant in Malaysia’s Sabah state.
A Malaysian woman seized along with him was released after a ransom was reportedly paid.
The group also abducted two Canadian tourists, a Norwegian resort manager and a Filipina from yachts at a marina in southern Philippines in September, and demanded a ransom of millions of dollars.