Kidnapped Indonesian sailors are in good condition: Foreign minister

Jakarta (ANTARA News) - The Foreign Affairs Ministry has obtained information that seven Indonesian sailors held captive by an armed group in South Philippines maritime territory are, so far, in good condition, according to Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi.

"We have maintained steady contact with several parties, both from Indonesia and the Philippines, since the kidnapping on June 24. Through constant coordination, we received information that the seven crew members of the tugboat are in good condition," Retno stated at the Foreign Ministrys building in Jakarta, Tuesday.

The minister affirmed that the Indonesians held hostage were earlier said to have been kidnapped by two different armed groups, but according to developing information, the seven boat crew members are now being held captive together.

"However, the hostages are split into two groups every once in a while. The group keeps moving from place to place but is estimated to still be present in the vicinity of Jolo Island," she remarked.

Retno revealed that the ministry continued to maintain communication with the families of the hostages and to update them on every development.

"The Foreign Ministry would update the family on the latest information from time to time," she reiterated.

During the occasion, Retno also emphasized that the tugboat Charles had arrived at the Semayang harbor in Balikpapan on Saturday, July 25, along with six sailors, who were freed by the armed group in South Philippines.

Since their arrival, the six boat crew members have been providing information on the kidnapping incident to the Navy, Retno stated.

"It was reported by the crew members, who had returned, that the boats route covered Tagoloan, Cagayan, and Mindanao and was scheduled to dock in Samarinda. They also confirmed the two kidnappings, in which three boat crew members were taken hostage in the first incident, while four were taken captive in the second incident," she revealed.

"The first group of kidnappers comprised five to six armed members, and the second group had eight to 10 armed members," she noted.

Minister Retno affirmed that the Indonesian government will make every possible effort to free the hostages through cooperation with several parties, including the Philippines government.

"Our first priority will always be the Indonesian boat crew members. We will intensify our communication and coordination efforts with all involved parties, both in Indonesia and the Philippines," she emphasized.

Seven Indonesian tugboat crew members were held captive by an armed militant group in the waters of South Philippines on June 20.

"On June 23, we received confirmation on the kidnapping of seven Indonesian boat crew members aboard Tugboat Charles 001 and Tongkang Robby 152 boat," she stated at the Foreign Ministrys building in Jakarta today.

Retno further remarked that the kidnappings in the Sulu Ocean were executed in two phases by different groups: on June 20 at around 11:30 a.m. local time and later at 12:45 p.m. local time.

"During the kidnapping, the boats were carrying aboard 13 crew members, of which seven were abducted, and six were released. Those, who were freed, are on their way to bring both ships back to Samarinda," the minister added.(*)