Freed Indonesian sailors return home, Jakarta says no ransom was paid
TEN Indonesian sailors freed by the Abu Sayyaf have returned home and Jakarta said no ransom was paid for the safe release of the hostages, the official Antara news agency reported. Indonesian President JokoWidodo welcomed the sailor’s release and thanked the Philippine government and others who helped in securing the freedom of the hostages.
Antara said a former Indonesian army general, Kivlan Zein, who led the private negotiations with the Abu Sayyaf on behalf of PT Patria Maritime Lines, said “the release was conducted without paying a ransom, based on negotiations and cooperation between the TNI (Indonesian military) and the Philippine military.”
Kivlan said conducted the negotiations since March 27 - a day after Abu Sayyaf militants took tugboat Brahma 12 and barge Anand 12 off Tawi-Tawi, one of 5 provinces under the restive Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
The hostages were released May 1 in Jolo town near the house of Sulu Governor Totoh Tan, who immediately took the Indonesians and fed them before handing the sailors to the police and military.
Kivlan said Tan, who belongs to a philanthropic and influential family, provided the most support to them in securing the freedom of the hostages.
“There have been a lot of efforts by the local and provincial governments and the military and police in securing the safe release not only of the Indonesians, but other hostages as well. The recovery of the ten Indonesians is good news. We hope and pray that the others may also walk freely away from their captors,” Tan told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.
The release of the sailors coincided with on-going military operations against the Abu Sayyaf in an effort to pressure the jihadists into freeing four other Indonesian tugboat crew members kidnapped recently off TawiTawi while heading home.
Kivlan remains in the southern Philippines and is engaged in attempts to secure the release of the remaining Indonesian hostages.
“We know their locations. I have made contact with the figure who kidnapped the four Indonesians. Hopefully we can free them,” Kivlan, a former chief of the Army's Strategic Reserve Command, said.
Widodo also tweeted on Sunday that: “We will work hard to release the remaining four Indonesian citizens. We will intensify patrols so no kidnapping will happen again.”
The Abu Sayyaf beheaded a Canadian hostage John Ridsdel on April 25 after his family and government failed to pay P300 million ransom. The jihadist group is also holding four Malaysians Wong Hung Song,Wong Teck Pang,Wong Teck Chi, and Johnny Lau Jung Hien, all from Sarawak; Dutchman Ewold Horn, who was kidnapped in Tawi-Tawi; Canadian Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad – who were all seized from the posh resort of Samal Island in Davao del Norte province; and Japanese treasure hunter Toshio Ito also known as Amir Katayama Mamaito.
Sulu Gov. Totoh Tan speaks on the phone while feeding the 10 Indonesian sailors who were freed by the Abu Sayyaf in Jolo town in the southern Philippines on May 1, 2016 after more than a month in captivity.
The 10 Indonesian sailors who were freed by the Abu Sayyaf in Jolo town in the southern Philippines on May 1, 2016 after more than a month in captivity. (Mindanao Examiner)