ZAMBOANGA CITY: Jakarta has sought the help of jailed Bali bomber Umar Patek to secure the safe release of 10 Indonesian sailors being held by the Abu Sayyaf in southern Philippines, media reports said.
Patek, who previously trained Abu Sayyaf fighters and MILF, or Moro Islamic Liberation Front, rebels in bomb-making before he was arrested in Pakistan in Jan. 2011, was visited by Indonesian officials in his Sulawesi jail and sought his assistance to save the lives of the hostages, according to The Australian.
The reports quoted Wawan Purwanto, a University of Indonesia intelligence and terrorism expert, as saying that in return, Patek demanded a reduced jail term – to 10 years from 20 – in exchange for his help.
Patek, who was found guilty in 2012 for the Bali bombings that killed 202 people and the 2000 bombings of churches in Jakarta, is serving four years of his 20-year sentence on terror charges.
The hostages were all crewmembers of the tugboat Brahma 12 who were kidnapped at sea off Tawi-Tawi province in the restive Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines. The rebels, who pledged allegiance with the Islamic State, demanded $1 million in ransom for the release of the Indonesians.
“He is helping to negotiate with Abu Sayyaf,” Purwanto said. “Patek has relationships and influence with the group and he knows their policy.”
The Indonesian captives – Peter Tonsen Barahama, the skipper; Julian Philip, Alvian Elvis Peti, Mahmud, Surian Syah, Surianto, Wawan Saputra, Bayu Octavianto, Reynaldi and Wendi Raknadian – are believed being held by Abu Sayyaf leader Alhabsi Misaya.
The Abu Sayyaf also kidnapped recently four Malaysian crewmembers of the tugboat MasFive 6 off Semporna in Malaysia’s oil-rich state of Sabah and brought them to Tawi-Tawi. The abducted seamen have been identified as Wong Hung Song, 44; Wong Teck Pang, 41; Wong Teck Chi, 39; and Johnny Lau Jung Hien, 21 – all from Sarawak.
The Philippine military said the Abu Sayyaf is still holding at least a Dutchman, Ewold Horn; Italian man Rolando del Torchio and Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, who were kidnapped on Samal Island in Davao del Norte province; and Japanese treasure hunter Katayama Mamaito.
The Abu Sayyaf demanded P21 million for each of the three Samal hostages and threatened to kill Ridsdel and Hall if ransoms are not paid.
Ridsdel, a consultant for international miner TVI, has appealed to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Pierre James Trudeau to save him and the other hostages.
Hall and Sekkingstad also made a similar appeal and told their governments to get them all out fast. AL JACINTO