Kidnappers demand RM4 million for 2 Indonesian fishermen

The Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper - - First Page - (Mindanao Examiner)

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Kidnappers of 2 Indonesian fishermen have demanded 4 million ringgit in exchange for the safe release of the hostages, believed to have been taken to the southern Philippines, Malaysian media reported on Wednesday.

Two masked gunmen abducted Usmanyunus, 35, and Samsul Sagunim, 40, on September 11 off Semporna town despite a strict security and sea curfew imposed by Malaysian authorities following persistent threats posed by Abu Sayyaf militants, blamed by Kuala Lumpur and Manila for ransom kidnappings in the past in Sabah.

The attackers, armed with automatic rifles, were speaking in Tausug, a dialect commonly used in Tawi-tawi and Sulu, according to two other fishermen, who managed to escape the abduction.

The Star quoted Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Omar Mammah as saying the kidnapper phoned one of the victim’s families on September 18 and made the demand. “The wife of one of the victims, who is in Sulawesi, Indonesia, received the call from the Philippines. No deadline has been set so far (for the payment). Maybe negotiations will be carried out between several quarters including the families of the victims,” Omar said during a news conference.

Malaysian newspaper, Daily Express, also reported that the duo had been brought to Talipao town in Sulu, one of 5 provinces under the Muslim autonomous region. It quoted Nicholas Teo, Deputy Director of the Singapore-based Information Sharing Centre of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (Recaap), as the source of its information.

Teo said Recaap had learned the kidnappers and their hostages fled on a speedboat towards Tawitawi in southern Philippines and then headed to Sulu. “Recaap believe their final destination is Talipao in Sulu, an area where the Abu Sayyaf group has previously based its kidnapping-for-ransom operations,” Teo said, citing intelligence from the Philippine Coast Guard.

It also quoted another Malaysian security official, who said the hostages were brought by their abductors in Talipao town. No individual or group claimed responsibility for the abductions, but the Abu Sayyaf had previously kidnapped Indonesian fishermen and sailors off Sabah and ransomed them off to their employers.

Kuala Lumpur has sought Manila’s assistance in recovering Yunus and Sagunim.

The latest kidnappings occurred 3 days after Abu Sayyaf militants freed Indonesian fishermen – Sudarlan Samansung, 41; Hamdam Salim, 34; and Subandi Sattoh, 27; – to the group of former Moro National Liberation Front rebel leader Nur Misuari in Buanza village in Sulu’s Indanan town. They were kidnapped in January last year while on a fishing expedition off Tawi-tawi province.

It was unknown how much ransom was paid to the Abu Sayyaf in exchange for the freedom of the hostages. The Abu Sayyaf also released other Indonesian hostages in the past to Misuari.

A government teacher, Benjamin Ubaid, who was also kidnapped recently in Sulu had been freed, but details of his release remain unclear, although sources in the province said ransom may have been paid to the kidnappers who were suspected to be members of the Abu Sayyaf.

The kidnappers had originally demanded P1.5 million from Ubaid’s family, according to sources, however, it was not immediately known whether ransom was paid to buy his freedom. Ubaid was released late Monday.

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