Indonesian military prepares for operation against Abu Sayyaf in Philippines

Indonesian President Joko Widodo (centre) onboard the Indonesian Navy ship KRI Imam Bonjol during a visit to the waters of Natuna Islands, Riau Islands, Indonesia, 23 June 2016. - EPA

JAKARTA: The Indonesian Military (TNI) has prepared its troops for possible involvement in military operations to release 10 Indonesian sailors held hostage by armed groups in the Philippines, even though a concrete agreement on how to conduct such operations has yet to be made with Manila.

TNI commander Gen Gatot Nurmantyo said the force was well prepared for every possible measure to assist the Philippines and Malaysia in operations to release the hostages from the hand of suspected Abu Sayyaf militant groups.

Even after last Saturday’s abduction of three Indonesian sailors, marking the fourth incident involving Indonesian nationals this year, Philippine officials have yet to agree to allow Indonesian forces to enter its territory and join security operations should another abduction occur, Gatot said.

“(The Philippines) has given the green light to allow us (to enter its territory), but the concrete agreement will be decided later by the defence minister,” Gatot said on Monday.

Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu is scheduled to hold a meeting with his Philippine and Malaysian counterparts on Tuesday to discuss the follow-up to a trilateral agreement on joint maritime security formed in May. They will also talk about further measures to release the hostages.

The matter regarding Indonesia's authority to enter the Philippines in a joint operation would be decided in the meeting, Gatot said.

While deliberations over rescue operations are ongoing, the TNI has also prepared its personnel to guard every barge or tugboat traveling the regional waters, with at least four or five TNI personnel in each vessel, Gatot said, adding that the troops were also ready to participate in joint sea patrol.

Meanwhile, Coordinating Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Minister Luhut B. Pandjaitan said Jakarta would respect the Philippines’ sovereignty and not encroach on its territory.

Last Saturday, three Indonesian sailors were abducted in Malaysian Sabah waters while they were conducting fishing activities in the area. It was the latest incident of the kidnapping spree, occurring less than a month since seven Indonesian ship crewmen were taken hostage by two different Philippine militant groups and held on different islands in southern Philippines. – The Jakarta Post/Asia News Network

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Indonesia , Abu Sayyaf , Philippines


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