ZAMBOANGA CITY: Jakarta confirmed Friday the abduction of seven Indonesian tugboat crewmembers, adding that six other sailors have been freed and are on their way home.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi confirmed the reports at a news conference in Jakarta, saying that their government will do everything possible to ensure the safe release of all the hostages.
The abducted sailors were identified as Ferry Arifin, skipper of tugboat Charles OO; M. Mahbrur Dahri; Edi Suryono; Ismail; M. Nasir; M.Sofyan and Robin Piter.
The boat – owned by PT Rusianto Brothers – was heading to Samarinda in East Kalimantan, following a trip from the Philippines when gunmen on speedboats intercepted it on June 29.
It was earlier reported that the crew were split into two groups, but Jakarta said the others had been released and that only seven were taken captive.
The abductors fled with their hostages to Tawi-Tawi province.
Indonesian media reported that the boat captain phoned his wife and told her that they were intercepted at sea by gunmen, who introduced themselves as Abu Sayyaf and were demanding 20 million Malaysian ringgits ($5 million) for their safe release.
The group previously kidnapped 14 Indonesian tugboat crewmembers in separate attacks at sea and brought them to Sulu province and eventually released through the intercession of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). The group has beheaded a Malaysian man and two Canadian hostages in Sulu. AL JACINTO