JAKARTA: The notorious Abu Sayyaf militant group is likely behind the kidnapping of seven Indonesian crewmen who were sailing in the waters of southern Philippines.
The situation is still developing, an official has confirmed.
"Relevant institutions in Indonesia are probing the situation to confirm the news, as well as looking for supporting evidence," Wibanarto Eugenius, minister counsellor at the Indonesian Embassy in Manila, told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.
Wibanarto said in the case of a kidnapping, the perpetrators would usually contact the shipping company after the crewmen had been safely relocated. "So far, this has not happened," he said. However, Wibanarto cited that communication could often be problematic when the group was still on the move.
He asserted that the government would continue to look into the issue.
Meanwhile, the Post's source also confirmed that the kidnappers were members of the same network that hijacked the Brahma 12 tugboat in March, under the leader of Tawing Humair.
Authorities at the Samarinda Port, where the boat departed from on June 4, confirmed the hostage situation. Col. Yus Kusmany would not identify the perpetrators but said the police and military were investigating further.
News of another kidnapping near the Sulu waters in the southern Philippines caught media attention on Wednesday night when the wife of a sailor aboard the Charles tugboat conveyed her husband’s condition.
The sailor, one of 13 men aboard, had reportedly contacted his wife to say that the boat had been taken hostage by a faction of the Abu Sayyaf militant group.
Seven men were taken from the boat while the remaining six were set free.
The kidnappers have reportedly asked for a ransom of RM20mil for the release of the hostages.
This is the third incident in recent months involving the kidnapping of Indonesian sailors by the Abu Sayyaf group. The southern Philippine waters borders with the Sulawesi Sea in North Kalimantan.
The area is known as the “new Somalia” for the spate of kidnappings and pirate attacks involving terrorist group Abu Sayyaf. The waterways are part of main sailing track for cargo ships in the region.
Separately, Samarinda Mayor Syaharie Jaang met executives of the company that owns the boat, Rusianto Bersaudara, and attempted to contact the kidnappers. The communication was hampered by a language barrier since the kidnappers could only speak Tagalog.
Below are names of the TB Charles crewmen kidnapped in Philippine waters, as released by the company:
1. Ferry Arifin (captain)
2. M. Mahbrur Dahri
3. Edi Suryono
7. Robin Piter
- The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network