Philippine militants free 10 Indonesian sailors abducted in March

Indonesian president Joko Widodo on Sunday thanked the Philippines government for the release of 10 Indonesian crew of a tugboat that had been held hostage by suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group since March. 

"Without the good cooperation there would not be the good result," Widodo said in a statement broadcast live from the Bogor Palace in West Java. 

The 10 people had been abducted on March 26 between the provinces of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi while travelling on their boat that was carrying 7,000 tons of coal from South Kalimantan in Indonesia to Batangas in the southern Philippines. 

They were released on Sunday, police in the Philippines said.

"Anonymous people dropped off the Indonesians in front of the house of the governor," said Superintendent Wilfredo Cayat, the provincial police chief, after the hostages were deposited on Jolo Island, 1,000 kilometres south of Manila.

"They were brought inside and fed," Cayat said, adding that the crew of the Brahma 12 tugboat would be taken to nearby Zamboanga City and handed over to Indonesian embassy officials.

It was not immediately confirmed if ransom was paid. The company that owns the Brahma 12 earlier announced it agreed to pay 50 million pesos (1.1 million dollars) in ransom.

Widodo said the 10 sailors are flying home from Zamboanga and are expected to arrive after in Jakarta after midnight. 

He added that the government remained working on the release of the other four sailors still being held hostage in the Philippines. They were kidnapped in a separate attack on April 16 while their tugboat and barge were sailing back to Indonesia from the Philippines. 

He reiterated the need for Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines to maintain security in the commercial waters between the three countries. 

Foreign ministers and armed forces from the countries are meeting on Thursday to discuss security in the region and to organise a joint patrol in light of recent hijackings to Indonesian-flagged ships.

The crew was freed days after Abu Sayyaf militants beheaded a Canadian hostage held captive since September last year.

Abu Sayyaf militants are believed to be holding several captives in the jungles of Jolo, including Canadian, Norwegian, Filipino and Dutch nationals, as well as four Malaysian sailors.

The militants have been blamed for some of the deadliest terrorist attacks in the Philippines, aside from high-profile kidnappings of foreigners.

Last update: Sun, 01/05/2016 - 15:41

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