Abu Sayyaf demands P200 million for 5 Malaysian sailors
ZAMBOANGA CITY – Suspected Abu Sayyaf militants have reportedly demanded P200 million in ransoms in exchange for the safe release of 5 Malaysian sailors they kidnapped in Sabah near the Philippines border.
Borneo Post reported that one of the hostages, Tayudin Anjut, 45, phoned his employer to say that they are being held captive in Basilan, one of 5 provinces under the Muslim autonomous region that Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte inspected troops fighting the Abu Sayyaf last week.
Anjut said the kidnappers were demanding the ransoms for their freedom, but Philippine military and police authorities could not immediately confirm nor deny the reports.
The sailors - Abd Rahim Summas, 62, Fandy Bakran, 26, Mohd Zumadil Rahim, 23 and Mohd Ridzuan Ismail, 32 - all crew members of the tugboat Seruduna 3, disappeared at sea off Lahad Datu town on July 18. Malaysian authorities earlier said it has no confirmation whether the Abu Sayyaf was behind the disappearance of the sailors. Their tugboat was recovered by Sabah authorities with its engine still running. The boat was set to return to Semporna after its barge delivered a cargo of stones in Sandakan City also in Sabah, according to the Malaysian media.
The Abu Sayyaf also seized 7 other Indonesian tugboat crewmen on June 22 in the Sulu Sea near the Philippines border and the hostages Ferry Arifin, the tugboat skipper; M. Mahbrur Dahri, Edi Suryono, Ismail, M.nasir, M.sofyan and Robin Piter - were last reported being sighted in Luuk town, local military intelligence reports said.
The boat – owned by PT Rusianto Brothers – was heading to Samarinda in East Kalimantan following a trip from the Philippines when gunmen on speedboats intercepted it. Indonesian media reported that Arifin phoned his wife and told her that they were intercepted at sea by gunmen, who introduced themselves as Abu Sayyaf and were also demanding over P200 million for their safe release.
The Abu Sayyaf previously kidnapped 14 Indonesian tugboat crewmembers in separate attacks at sea off Sabah and brought them to Sulu province and eventually released through the intercession of the Moro National Liberation Front.
Duterte, who arrived in Zamboanga City on a jet plane before heading to Basilan, was welcomed by Mayor Beng Climaco. The two had a brief talk and Duterte was led by security officials in a room where they initially briefed him on the security situation in Basilan and the progress of the military operations against the Abu Sayyaf. But details of this were not made available by the military to the media.
The Western Mindanao Command did not allow journalists to interview Duterte in Zamboanga and Basilan where the president arrived by helicopter at an army base in Isabela City. It was unknown whether Duterte ordered an allout offensive against the Abu Sayyaf, but he previously said that he needed more time to deal with the extremist group.
“Just give me the luxury of time; I cannot do it just immediately. There are things which I need which we do not have now. But there will be a time, there will be a reckoning. And when it comes, I will just say surrender unconditionally. Release all prisoners, hostages or we fight, but I have to have a firm commitment from our brother Moro about the continuity of the talks, hayaan na muna iyan, huwag silang sumama.”
“As soon as I get that guaranty na talagang peaceful ang intentions ninyo and you are not protecting terrorists and when I have it in my hands, I will be ready to confront and if we confront them, we’ll confront them, tapusin na talaga natin para wala ng gulo so that, my dream is really that one day all Filipinos, we just say Filipinos and we do not at all mention he’s left or right, he’s a Moro rebel or a Moro terrorist,” Duterte said, adding, he will need to get the commitments of the Moro National Liberation Front - which signed a peace deal with Manila in 1996 – before he can address security problems posed by the Isis-affiliated Abu Sayyaf group.
Two Moro Islamic Liberation Front soldiers stand guard on a village near their camp in Maguindanao province in southern Philippines.
President Rodrigo Duterte arrives in Zamboanga City where he is welcomed by Mayor Beng Climaco before heading to Basilan province.
Photo released by the Philippine Air Force shows President Rodrigo Duterte during his arrival last week in Zamboanga City.