Indonesia urges action as high-seas kidnappings surge

Indonesia urges action as high-seas kidnappings surge
PHOTO: Reuters

Jakarta - Indonesia called Monday on Malaysia and the Philippines to do more to secure their "unsafe" waters after the weekend abduction of sailors by suspected Islamist militants.

Armed men in a speedboat kidnapped the three sailors late Saturday from a Malaysian-flagged trawler in Malaysian waters off Borneo island and took them towards the strife-torn southern Philippines, officials said.

The kidnappers were apparently targeting Indonesian citizens, as three Malaysian sailors and an Indonesian who concealed his nationality were released from the same vessel, the military said.

It takes to 24 the number of Indonesians kidnapped this year in the vital waterway between the three countries, with Philippine Muslim militant outfit Abu Sayyaf accused of being behind all the abductions.

"This kind of incident cannot be tolerated at all," said Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi.

"Serious efforts, I repeat, serious efforts, must be taken immediately both by the Philippine and Malaysian governments." "This goes to show that the waters of Malaysia and the Philippines are unsafe," added Indonesian armed forces chief Gatot Nurmantyo.

Separately, the Philippine military said Abu Sayyaf, which has earned millions of dollars from kidnappings-for-ransom, was behind the latest outrage.

The three new captives would add to the seven Indonesians and two Europeans already being held by the group, said Philippines military spokesman Major Filemon Tan.

In May, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines agreed to launch a coordinated patrol of the waters after the recent surge of kidnappings. Nurmantyo said that defence ministers from the three countries were due to meet in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday to further discuss the plan.

Of the Indonesians abducted this year, fourteen were released after being held in Abu Sayyaf's stronghold in the southern Philippines but there was no information on whether a ransom was paid.

A further seven were kidnapped in the area last month, after which Jakarta banned Indonesian-flagged vessels from sailing to the Philippines.

A handful of Malaysian sailors have also been kidnapped this year.

Abu Sayyaf, who are based on remote and mountainous southern islands, this year beheaded two Canadian hostages after their multi-million-dollar ransom demands were not met, and in 2015 executed a Malaysian hostage.

The group is a loose network of a few hundred Islamist militants, formed in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network.

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