The Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday said that 10 Indonesians are being held hostage in the Philippines after their ship was hijacked in the latest reminder of insecurity plaguing border regions of the two countries.
The ministry said in a statement that the owner of the hijacked tug boat and coal barge has received two telephone calls, purportedly from militant group Abu Sayyaf, demanding a ransom.
The ministry does not know exactly when the incident occurred but the ship owner was first contacted on Saturday, the statement said, referring to the hostage takers as pirates.
Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi told a news conference that she is working with Indonesian officials and Philippine authorities to coordinate a rescue.
“Our priority is the safety of 10 Indonesian nationals who are now still in the hands of the hostage takers,” she said.
Abu Sayyaf is notorious for bombings, extortions and kidnappings for ransom in the volatile south of the Philippines. It has been weakened by years of US-backed Philippine offensives but remains a security threat.
If confirmed as the work of Abu Sayyaf, the kidnapping would be among its largest number of hostages since 2001.
Philippine army Major General Demy Tejares said that troops were trying to verify reports that the Indonesians were brought by their abductors to the southern province of Sulu and that notorious Abu Sayyaf kidnapper Alhabsi Misaya was involved.
“There is information pointing to Sulu as the destination so we’re monitoring it,” Tejares said of the predominantly Muslim province 950km south of Manila, where several kidnapping victims are believed to be held in the jungles by Abu Sayyaf militants.
The tug, Brahma 12, and the Anand 12 barge were going from Sungai Putting in Kalimantan — the Indonesian part of Borneo Island — to Batangas in the southern Philippines.
The Facebook page of Brahma 12 captain Peter Tonsen Barahama shows smiling photographs of him and the crew on the vessel preparing for the voyage and good luck wishes from friends commenting on a port clearance document he posted. The document shows the vessel and its barge left a port in southern Kalimantan on March 15.
A Philippine police report said an unmanned boat marked Brahma 12 was sighted on Saturday by a villager drifting in waters off the town of Languyan in the southernmost Philippine province of Tawi Tawi, near Sulu, and brought by police to a a Languyan wharf.
The Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs believes the barge carrying about 7,000 tonnes of coal is still under the control of the hostage takers.
Philippine security officials suspect the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf in last year’s abductions of two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipina from a marina on southern Samal Island. The kidnap victims are believed to be held in the jungles of southern Sulu Province.
In a recent video posted on a Facebook account linked to the militants, they threatened to kill the hostages unless a huge ransom was paid by April 8. The Philippine military said the government’s no-ransom policy remains.
Indonesia has been helping the Philippines forge a peace agreement with Philippine Muslim rebels by sending soldiers to join an international oversight group which helps monitor government and rebel adherence to a ceasefire.
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big