ZAMBOANGA CITY: Malaysian authorities said armed men, who seized three Indonesians off Sabah’s Lahad Datu town last week, have taken their captives to Tawi-Tawi province.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi confirmed this during a news conference, but provided no other details about the hostages – Teodorus Kopong, 42; Lorence Koten, 34; and Emanuel, 40 – except saying that the government will not pay any ransom.
Father Paulus Rahmat, a priest from the Catholic human rights organization Vivat International for Indonesia, said Jakarta must do its utmost to help the captives. “The government needs to take firm steps to ensure their release,” the independent Union of Catholic Asian News quoted the priest as saying, adding that “abductions at sea are a growing problem.”
The victims were seized on July 9 while aboard a Malaysian-flagged trawler owned by Chia Tong Len. It was unknown whether the abductors, who spoke Malay and Tausug, a language largely used in Sulu and in some parts of Basilan and Tawi-Tawi, demanded ransom.
The military’s Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) did not issue any statement on the progress of its search for the hostages, or if the Abu Sayyaf was behind the latest abduction. The militant group is still holding at least 10 abducted foreigners in the Southern Philippines and Sabah.