Freed Indonesian hostages thank government

Kupang, E Nusa Tenggara (ANTARA News) - Three Indonesian hostages being held by the Abu Sayyaf militant group in the Philippines thanked the Indonesian government for its efforts in freeing them here on Tuesday.

"We thank the central government, as well as the provincial, district, and sub-district administrations, for their serious efforts to free us from our abductors. We also thank the entire people of Indonesia for praying for our safety and freedom," said Laurensius Koten, one of the the freed hostages.

This 34-year-old Indonesian said he was taken hostage, along with Teodorus Kopong Koten, 42, and Emanuel Arakian Maran, 46, after their vessel was hijacked by the group in Malaysias Lahat Datu waters in July.

During their captivity, for two months and 10 days, they could not do anything, but submitted their fate to God, said Koten, the skipper of the ill-fated vessel.

"What we could only do was just kept expecting a miracle from God. During our abduction, we were often treated badly, a situation that we have never thought would happen in our lives," he said.

Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said earlier that the release of the three Indonesian sailors, along with a Norwegian national, was the result of a negotiation process that the Philippines government, coordinated by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), held with the abductors.

However, the Philippine and Indonesian governments did not pay a ransom to free the hostages. "It is clear that the Indonesian and Philippine governments did not spend even a single cent for a ransom," he said.

The Indonesian government had a strong belief in Manilas seriousness in rescuing the Indonesian hostages being held captive by the Abu Sayyaf militant group, Ryacudu said in August.

This was apparent, following the Philippines recent military operations against the Abu Sayyaf group, which led to the deaths of at least 115 militants, he had said.(*)