Duterte vows day of reckoning vs Abu
(The Philippine Star) - June 25, 2016 - 12:00am

7 Indonesian sailors seized; Pinay released

MANILA, Philippines - President-elect Rodrigo Duterte has waded into the Abu Sayyaf crisis, securing the release of Filipina hostage Marites Flor and vowing a day of “reckoning.”

“I don’t want to pick a fight with anybody, but there will be a time. I have to confront Abu Sayyaf. It’s not yet forthcoming,” Duterte said yesterday during the turnover ceremony at the Davao City Police Office.

“Their kidnapping must stop. It has given us a very bad image,” he added. “There will be a reckoning one of these days.”

Duterte confirmed that negotiations were held to secure the release of Flor, who was present during the turnover rites in Davao City.

“We were able to negotiate for the release of Marites Flor,” Duterte announced.

“Instrumental in the release was (incoming) secretary Jesus Dureza. Even (Sulu) Governor Abdusakur Tan (II) also helped,” Duterte added.

There are unconfirmed reports that Flor was released after P50 million was paid for a Norwegian captive. Instead of the Norwegian, however, it was Flor who was released.

Flor was among four people kidnapped nine months ago by the Abu Sayyaf from a Samal island resort.

Her partner, Canadian Robert Hall, was beheaded after a ransom deadline lapsed last week and following a similar killing of fellow Canadian John Ridsdel in April.

The fate of Norwegian hostage Kjartan Sekkingstad is unknown. The Abu Sayyaf is demanding a P300-million ransom for his release.

Duterte said efforts are underway to free Sekkingstad.

“We have negotiated for their release, but only Flor was freed and I understand the rough seas prevented the Norwegian from being released,” Duterte said.

He said he is hopeful Sekkingstad will be released soon. 

Norwegian Ambassador Erik Forner, who was attending the event in Davao, also said they were hoping that Sekkingstad would have been released already.

During the event, Duterte reiterated his warning to the Abu Sayyaf to surrender and release their hostages or face the consequences.

Strikes again

While Duterte spoke out against the Abu Sayyaf, Indonesia’s foreign minister confirmed yesterday that seven Indonesian sailors have been taken hostage in the Sulu Sea in southern Philippines.

“We got confirmation of an incident of kidnapping involving Indonesian crew of a ship,” Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told reporters in Jakarta.

She said the hijackings were carried out by two different armed groups in attacks on a tugboat towing a coal-carrying barge.

Six of the 13 crew on board were freed, Marsudi said, and were on their way back to Indonesia.

“We absolutely do not tolerate this. The government will try all options to free the hostages,” Marsudi said.

The kidnapping of the Indonesian sailors occurred just before the Abu Sayyaf released Flor.

A security official said pirates linked with the Abu Sayyaf abducted the seven Indonesians from tugboat TB Charles 001 while sailing to Indonesia on Monday.

The official said the abduction was confirmed after the victims started calling their agency and their respective families that the Abu Sayyaf is demanding 20 million ringgit as ransom.

The official revealed the kidnappers belonged to the Muktadil brothers group.

He said the gunmen on two speedboats intercepted the Indonesian tugboat.

The official said the gunmen initially seized three crewmen who were identified as Captain Feri Arifin, chief engineer Muhammad Mahbrur Dahri and assistant engineer Edy Suryono.

The gunmen fled with their three captives and came back to seize the crew of TK Robby 152, which was being towed by TB Charles.

The official identified the four other captives as Chief Officer Ismail, Robin Peter, Muhammad Nasir and Muhammad Sofyan.

The official said the gunmen and their captives sped off toward the direction of Tawi-Tawi.

According to security officials, Arifin reportedly managed to call his family and informed them they were kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu who demanded 20 million ringgit for their release.

The official added that on Thursday afternoon, the other crewmembers also managed to contact their respective families and informed them of the incident.

Abu Sayyaf spokesman Muammar Askali claimed the Indonesians were turned over to them for “safekeeping.”


Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr. said they are still verifying the reported abduction.

“We have yet to get direct and solid information regarding this kidnapping incident. The validation of this report is still ongoing,” he said.

Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) spokesman Maj. Filemon Tan Jr. said they are still verifying the reports while troops have been alerted on the latest kidnapping by the Abu Sayyaf.

Last month, gunmen kidnapped four Indonesian sailors and shot and wounded one crewmember of a tugboat off Tawi-Tawi.

The gunmen on a speedboat intercepted the TB Henry with its crew of 10 Indonesians off

Pondo Sibugal in Sitangkai, an island town off Tawi-Tawi.

A batch of 10 Indonesian tugboat crewmembers were also taken last March 26 off East Kalimantan, Indonesia while en route to Manila.

The Indonesian tugboat TB Brama was recovered days later off Languyan town in Tawi-Tawi with no sign of the victims.

On April 1, four Malaysian sailors were kidnapped from a ship near Sabah’s Ligitan Island. It is still unconfirmed who was responsible but initial information indicated the Abu Sayyaf was behind the snatch.

Indonesian authorities have voiced concerns that piracy in the Sulu Sea area, a major sea traffic lane for the world’s top thermal coal exporter, could reach levels previously seen in Somalia.

Up to 18 Indonesians and Malaysians were kidnapped in three attacks on tugboats earlier this year by groups suspected to have ties to the Abu Sayyaf. All 14 Indonesian citizens were later released.

The Philippine military has said the militants have been targeting foreign crew of slow-moving tugboats because they can no longer penetrate resorts and coastal towns in Malaysia’s eastern Sabah state due to increased security.

Last year, Malaysian Bernard Then was kidnapped from a seaside restaurant in Sabah, about 300 kilometers from Jolo, the Abu Sayyaf’s stronghold. He was later killed by the bandit group.

The rise of sea hijackings prompted Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia to agree last month to carry out coordinated patrols to secure the region’s busy waterways.

However, coordinated patrols are yet to get underway.

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB)’s Kuala Lumpur-based Piracy Reporting Center said the shipping community had expressed concern over the rise in attacks.

Many Western and other embassies routinely issue warnings against traveling to southern Philippines because of the risk of being abducted by the Abu Sayyaf.

In the past, Abu Sayyaf has mainly targeted tourists as they can demand high ransom for foreigners.

In a bid to curb kidnappings, Malaysia has imposed a temporary ban on the trade route between Sabah and the southern Philippines. – Roel Pareño, Edith Regalado, Jaime Laude

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