Indonesia appears to be negotiating with Abu Sayyaf on hostages


THE Indonesian Embassy has reportedly established contact with the al-Qaeda linked Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), which has been holding hostage 10 Indonesian sailors deep in the jungles of Sulu province, an intelligence officer disclosed Wednesday.

“The Indonesians are now negotiating for the safe release of their countrymen abducted by the ASG while their tugboat was sailing near the waters of Languyan town in Tawi-Tawi,” said the intelligence source, based in Camp Crame, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Previous reports said the 10 Indonesians, all crewmembers of a Taiwanese tugboat Brahman 12, were now in the custody of the ASG’s Tanum Group under sub-leader Muammar Askali deep in the jungles Patikul town, in Sulu province.

The Indonesians were forcibly taken by the ASG, which has demanded ransom money from the owner/operator of the Taiwanese-registered tugboat for the safe release of the hostages.

The intelligence source said the Tanum Group was also believed to be behind the abduction of two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipina from a resort on Samal Island, Davao Oriental, on Sept. 21. The ASG has demanded for at least P3 billion for the safe release of the Samal hostages, giving April 16 as the deadline.

The Tanum Group was also tagged as behind the kidnapping of two Germans, who were yachting off the coast of Bataraza town in southern Palawan in April 2014. Stefan Viktor Okonek and Henrite Dielen were freed in Oct. 2014 after the ASG received the amount of P250 million. ANTHONY VARGAS



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    Bali Umar Patek bomber helping in hostage negotiations

    Bali bomber Umar Patek is helping to negotiate the release of 10 Indonesian crew members from the clutches of hardline Islamist group Abu Sayyaf in the southern Philippines.

    Patek, a former a member of the Islamic State-affiliated group, has been visited in his Sulawesi jail by Indonesian officials seeking his assistance, Wawan Purwanto, a University of Indonesia intelligence and terrorism expert, told The Australian yesterday.

    In return, Patek is requesting a substantial remission or ­amnesty, after serving four years of his 20-year sentence on terror charges, Mr Purwanto added.

    Patek has links to leaders of the Philippines terror group which last week abducted the crew of a tugboat and barge flying Indonesian flags and carrying 7000 tonnes of coal.

    The group has demanded a $US1 million ($1.3m) ransom for the release of the Indonesian hostages.

    The owner of the vessels had suggested a downpayment.

    “My government does not agree,’’ Mr Purwanto said.

    Abu Sayyaf, which merged with other terror groups in January, heads a Philippines wilayat, or province.

    It is notorious for beheadings, bombings, kidnapping and ­extortion ventures, with ransom demands comprising its core funding since its 1991 inception.

    Patek had provided information on the militants’ movements.

    He is fluent in the local language, said Badrus Sholeh, an international relations ­researcher from Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University.

    Mr Sholeh, who recently spoke with Patek, says the terrorist is negotiating for a 50 per cent sentence cut.

    “He is helping to negotiate with Abu Sayyaf,’’ Mr Purwanto said. “Patek has relationships and influence with the group and he knows their policy.”

    The deputy head of enforcement at the national counter-terrorism agency BNPT, Arief Dharmawan, said every prisoner on a fixed sentence had the right to remission, “including Umar Patek’’.

    “He has filed for remission and it will be discussed by the BNPT team,’’ he said.

    Indonesia was continuing to negotiate with Philippines authorities on the deployment of ­Indonesian special military troops, who were on standby in North Kalimantan.

    The vessels — tugboat Brahma 12 and barge Anand 12 — were on the way from South Kalimantan to Batangas in the southern Philippines when captured.

    Four Malaysians abducted by gunmen off Sabah on Saturday are also believed to be held captive by Abu Sayyaf in the southern Philippines.

    Patek was found guilty in 2012 for his role in building the 2002 Bali bombs that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians, and for church attacks in Jakarta on Christmas Eve 2000.