13 Indonesian sailors abducted off Tawi-Tawi
ZAMBOANGA CITY: Suspected Abu Sayyaf militants seized 13 Indonesian sailors off the southern Philippine province of Tawi-Tawi two weeks after they released four Malaysian hostages for ransom.
The kidnapped sailors were crewmembers of tugboat Charles OO.
Indonesian media reported that the boat captain phoned his wife and told her that gunmen who introduced themselves as Abu Sayyaf intercepted them at sea on Wednesday then demanded 20 million ringgits for their safe release.
The militants and their hostages were last seen heading to Tawi-Tawi, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region. There was no immediate statement from the boat owner, PT Rusianto Brothers.
The tugboat was on its way to Samarinda in East Kalimantan following a trip from the Philippines when it was intercepted. The hostages were reportedly formed into two groups by their Abu Sayyaf abductors.
A Philippine envoy who declined to be named confirmed the abduction.
“In fact, a minister from Indonesia has just called Secretary [Jose Rene] Almendras a while ago,” the envoy said.
The official said the rebel group has been carrying on its kidnapping activity because of the willingness of Indonesians and Malaysians to pay ransom.
The latest abduction occurred after the terror group beheaded Canadian Robert Hall, whose government maintains a no-ransom policy.
“The problem with the Indonesians, and also Malaysians…they throw money at the problem in the hope that the problem goes away with the money,” he said, adding, “They’ve been doing that for the longest time.”
The families of four Malaysian sailors who were freed on June 7 were reported to have paid P130 million ransom to the rebel group. However, only P100 million reached the bandits.
The missing amount fueled suspicions that the rebels may be in cahoots with government officials from Malaysia and the Philippines who may have shared the money among themselves.
According to two highly placed senior Philippine government officials, the payment of ransom was confirmed by Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi who said the families and friends of the victims raised RM12 million (roughly $2.9 million) for the freedom of brothers Wong Teck Kang, 31, and Teck Chii, 29; their cousin Johnny, 21; and co-worker Wong Hung Sing, 34.
The four were abducted off Sabah on April 1.
The ASG is still holding a Norwegian, Dutch, Chinese and seven Filipinos.
With Michael Joe T. Delizo