JAKARTA—Ten Indonesian sailors have been kidnapped in Philippine waters by Islamic militants who have demanded a ransom for their release, an official said Tuesday.
The crew were traveling on two boats that were transporting coal from Borneo island to the Philippines when they were hijacked, said Indonesia’s foreign ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir.
It is not clear when the vessels—a tugboat and a barge—were hijacked but the boats’ owners received a ransom call from someone claiming to be from the Abu Sayyaf militant group on Saturday, Nasir said.
“The hijackers demanded a ransom from the owners of the boat. Since March 26, the hijackers have contacted the owners twice,” Nasir told reporters, without elaborating on how much had been demanded for the crew’s release.
It is unclear where the barge Anand 12 and the crew are being held by the kidnappers but the tugboat Brahma 12 had been released to the Philippine authorities, he added.
The Indonesian foreign ministry is working with the Philippines foreign ministry on the case, Nasir said.
“Our current priority is the safety of the 10 citizens who were taken hostage,” he said, adding their families had been informed.
Armed Forces chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri flew to the main army base in the south of the country to check on the situation and discuss what steps should be taken, his spokesman Brigadier General Restituto Padilla said.
The Philippine government has repeatedly said it has a no-ransom policy. But parties linked to foreigners held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf often pay to win their release.
Reports from Manila said local authorities found one of the tugboats abandoned at Languyan island, Tawi-tawi province on Monday afternoon.
Arrmanatha said Brahma 12 was already in the custody of officials in the Philippines while the other vessel and crewmen were still held hostage.
A report said authorities in the Philippines have received a demand for ransom equivalent to at least $1 million for the crew’s release.
The military confirmed the abduction of the 10 Indonesians Tuesday but could not confirm they were taken by the Abu Sayyaf.
Brig. Gen. Demy Tejares, commander of the joint task force on Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, said naval, air and ground assets are conducting a search for the victims.
Tejares also confirmed reports that the tugboat was found in Languyan, Tawi-Tawi, without its crew.
Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the abductors took the navigational equipment attached to the vessel and the personal belongings of the entire crew.
The military announced Tuesday that government forces arrested an Abu Sayyaf Group sub-leader who was involved in a string of kidnappings in Zamboanga Peninsula.
Maj. Filemon Tan, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command, identified the suspected kidnapper as Esmael Pingli alias Tago Pingli.
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.