Indonesia faces fresh hostage crisis as four more sailors kidnapped

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - With the Indonesian authorities still struggling to secure the release of the 10 sailors kidnapped by the Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf group, the nation is now facing yet another hostage crisis in which four more Indonesians were abducted in the Malaysia-Philippine maritime border waters.
The four Indonesian crew members were kidnapped on April 15 at 6:31 pm local time when unidentified pirates tried to hijack two Indonesia-flagged boats, tugboat TB Henry and Barge Christi.
The two boats were on their way from Cebu, the Philippines, to Tarakan, North Kalimantan, when the hijacking occurred, the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement in Jakarta, on April 16.
The boats carried 10 Indonesian crew members. Of the 10, one was shot, five managed to escape, and four were abducted by the pirates.
The injured crew member was rescued by the Malaysian Maritime Police and taken to Malaysia for medical treatment. He is in a stable condition, according to the ministry.
The five crew members, who had escaped the kidnapping, and the two boats were also taken by the Malaysian police to Lahat Datu seaport, Malaysia.
The ministry is currently communicating with the managements of the companies which own the boats, as also with the authorities of Malaysia and the Philippines, to seek details about the piracy incident and coordinate measures to ensure release of hostages.
Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan has said the government is analyzing the latest hostage crisis.
It is not known whether the abductors were from the Abu Sayyaf group which has been holding 10 Indonesian sailors hostage since March 26, 2016.
"We are still analyzing. We do not know for sure who is holding them hostage. We are studying the motive of the abductors, whether it is political or purely for money such as what has been happening in Somalia," Pandjaitan said. He was attending a ceremony celebrating the 64th anniversary of the Indonesian Armys Special Force, Kopassus.
Luhut Pandjaitan said a crisis center has been set up under his ministry.
The Commander of the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI), General Gatot Nurmantyo, said the four Indonesian crew members were most likely being held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines.
Earlier, General Nurmantyo expressed his optimism that the Philippine government can deal with the Abu Sayyaf group to secure the release of the 10 sailors kidnapped last month.
The TNI, however, is ready to help the Philippines government if and when such a need arises.
"The hostages are being held captive in an area within the Philippines territory, and we must have permission to take further action. We have everything ready and can handle any requests. However, at this time, the Philippines government is still capable of handling the hostage situation on its own," the military commander affirmed.
Negotiations between the Abu Sayyaf group and the sailors companies to secure the release of the 10 hostages are still going on.
The Abu Sayyaf group has demanded a 50 million peso ransom, or about Rp14.2 billion.
The Indonesian government has been pursuing a peaceful approach in its attempts to free the 10 sailors.
The safety of the hostages is the governments top priority, the foreign ministry has stated.
Every effort to secure the release of the hostages was being "well monitored," Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said earlier, and added that Jakarta had intensified its coordination with Manila authorities.
In the meantime, the TNI has sent two warships, KRI Badau and KRI Slamet Riyadi, to the Indonesian waters that share maritime borders with Malaysia and the Philippines.
The government will explore cooperation with the governments of Malaysia and the Philippines to secure the waters.
The Indonesian authorities will take some measures to deal with incidents of piracy, frequently happening in its waters.
Indonesia has also urged neighboring countries to step up security in their waters.
On April 1, 2016, Abu Sayyaf group had taken the MV Massive 6 tugboat and its crew of nine hostage while it was en route from Tawau in Sabah, Malaysia, to Samarinda in East Kalimantan.
The MV Massive 6 and five of its crew - three Indonesians and two Myanmar nationals - have since been released but the Abu Sayyaf group is still holding the remaining four Malaysian crewmen, the Straits Times reported.
The militant group has also been holding two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipino hostage since last September.
In a two-minute video viewed by The Straits Times, the hostages are shown asking their governments to pay 900 million pesos (US$26.5 million) by 3pm on April 25.(*)

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