Asia - Pacific

Indonesia calls on neighbors to act against piracy

Defense minister calls on Malaysian, Philippine counterparts to implement agreements on security in militant hotbed seas

Indonesia calls on neighbors to act against piracy The patrols are aimed at combatting threats of terrorism, transnational crime, and the trafficking of people and narcotics.

By Ainur Rohmah

TUBAN, Indonesia

Indonesia’s defense minister has pushed for cooperation with Malaysia and the Philippines in implementing agreements to improve maritime security, following a spate of kidnappings in the region’s piracy-ridden waters.

"It is important to immediately implement the trilateral cooperation in practical terms on the ground in a coordinated manner," Ryamizard Ryacudu told a meeting attended by his Malaysian and Philippine counterparts Tuesday on Bali island.

In past months, more than 20 Indonesian and Malaysian sailors have been kidnapped in the Celebes and Sulu seas and held captive by militants in the Philippines’ troubled south.

While some of the hostages were later released, at least 10 Indonesians are currently believed to be held by the Abu Sayyaf group in the island province of Sulu.

Tuesday’s trilateral meeting was the third by the defense ministers of the neighboring countries, who had previously agreed to hold joint maritime patrols in the region.

Ryacudu was quoted by Indonesian national news agency Antara as calling for the implementation of trilateral maritime security patrols -- which the sides had agreed to in a document signed in July -- in hopes of addressing the neighbors’ security issues, particularly in the Sulu Sea.

The patrols are aimed at combatting threats of terrorism, transnational crime, and the trafficking of people and narcotics.

Ryacudu also proposed the establishment of a joint military command post to facilitate a mechanism of coordination, distribution of information and intelligence and the ongoing implementation of the joint declaration of cooperation.

Meanwhile, a foreign ministry spokesman said he had been coordinating with Philippine authorities responding to information that the Abu Sayyaf has threatened to kill four Indonesian sailors if a ransom of 250 million pesos ($5.3 million) is not paid.

"They were already held hostage [which is] a threat to their lives, so anything that they [the kidnappers] say, we take seriously," Arrmanatha Nasir was quoted as saying Tuesday by

The four men were among seven crew kidnapped from a tugboat in June.

Last week, an Abu Sayyaf faction led by Alhabsy Misaya called the wife of the tugboat’s chief officer, threatening to kill four of the men if their company did not meet the ransom demand.

When confirming the abduction in June, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi had said that one group of assailants had kidnapped three crew members, before a second group snatched another four from the tugboat, which was towing a vessel carrying coal.

Following the incident, Indonesia had halted coal shipments to the neighboring archipelago, saying they would only continue if Manila can secure its waters.

Kidnap-for-ransom gangs operating in the Sulu and Celebes seas are known to hand over their captives to the Abu Sayyaf and negotiate for a ransom that, if paid, is shared with the group.

Since 1991, the Abu Sayyaf group -- armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles -- has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortions in a self-determined fight for an independent province in the Philippines.

Earlier this year, the group beheaded two Canadian hostages after ransoms failed to be paid. It has threatened to decapitate a Norwegian captured with them in September if a P300-million ($6 million) ransom demand is not met.

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