World, Asia - Pacific

Philippines ‘pleased’ with release of 10 Indonesians

Government says they are coordinating with foreign governments with nationals still held by Daesh-linked militants

Philippines ‘pleased’ with release of 10 Indonesians


By Hader Glang

ZAMBOANGA CITY, the Philippines

The Philippines’ government said Monday it was pleased with the release of 10 Indonesians held hostage by Daesh-linked militants, while underlining that operations were ongoing to rescue remaining captives.

The 10 sailors were turned over Sunday to the governor of the majority Muslim island province of Sulu, after being abducted in late March from a tugboat off the nearby province of Tawi-Tawi.

Their release came six days after the Abu Sayyaf beheaded a Canadian hostage, 68-year-old John Ridsdel, after a 300-million pesos ($6 million) ransom failed to be paid.

"The Philippine Government is pleased at the positive developments resulting in the safe release of 10 Indonesian nationals abducted by the Abu Sayyaf on March 26, 2016," the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement Monday.

"While intensified operations continue on the ground, the DFA maintains close coordination with concerned foreign governments in ensuring the safe return of all the remaining hostages," it added.

After the 10 men were left at the residence of Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan II, they were brought to a military hospital where they cleared checkups and were flown to the Indonesian capital of Jakarta at night.

It has not been confirmed whether a 50 million peso ($1 million) ransom demanded for their release was paid.

While an unnamed source told the Philippine Inquirer daily that the ransom had been paid, Indonesia’s government’s negotiator, Major Gen. Kivlan Zen, was quoted by as insisting that efforts had involved “purely negotiation".

The Abu Sayyaf is notorious for beheading victims after ransoms have failed to be paid for their release.

After the 10 sailors were freed, Indonesian President Joko Widodo declared that Jakarta was cooperating with its neighbor for the release of four other nationals seized from a tugboat off Tawi-Tawi in mid-April.

The Abu Sayyaf is believed to still be holding more than a dozen captives including four Malaysians kidnapped off the coast of Malaysia’s eastern Sabah state in early April.

Other hostages include a Canadian, a Norwegian and a Filipino woman seized alongside Ridsdel in September, a Dutch national kidnapped more than three years ago in Tawi-Tawi, a Chinese national and six other Filipinos.

Since 1991, the 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 Islamic province in the Philippines.

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