The Indonesian navy said Sunday that seven Indonesian sailors taken hostage in the Philippines’ Sulu Sea are believed to have been kidnapped by two separate armed groups.
Navy spokesman First Admiral Edi Sucipto said the tugboat Charles 001 manned by 13 crew departed on June 18 from Cagayan De Oro Port in the Philippines bound for Samarinda, the provincial capital of East Kalimantan when it was ambushed by nine men in two boats coming from the direction of Jolo Island.
“One of the men was speaking Malay and carrying a long-barreled rifle. They abducted three crew members and seized the boat’s communication devices,” Sucipto said.
The captors allowed the boat and the rest of the crew to continue their journey.
The first abduction happened on June 20 at 11.30 am local time and the second ambush followed only one hour and 15 minutes later.
“The tug boat was ambushed by another group of about 10 men who were using three boats. Based on the information we collected, the captors were speaking English and acted rudely and arrogantly, armed with gun and long-barreled rifle,” Sucipto said.
The captors abducted four crewmembers and released the boat with six remaining crew to continue its journey.
The boat is now docked in Semayang Port of Balikpapan, East Kalimantan after it was located by Multatuli-561 warship and escorted by Kerapu-821 war ship back to Balikpapan.
The government confirmed the kidnappings on Friday after initial confusion about the veracity of the reports.
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi strongly criticized the abduction of Indonesian sailors by suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf militant group and the third one in the same waters since March.
“This third occurrence is really intolerable,” Retno said during a press conference on Friday.
“The Indonesian government demanded the Philippine government to ensure security in the southern Philippines waters so it does not disrupt economic activity in the region. In this case, the Indonesian government stands ready to cooperate,” she added.
Following last week’s abductions, the Indonesian government imposed again the moratorium, which was imposed after the second kidnapping in April, to ship coal to the Philippines.
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said Friday plans to conduct joint patrols in the waters bordering Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines is yet to be materialised
The joint patrol aimed to prevent more hijackings of ships in the waters was one of the four agreements resulted from a trilateral meeting between foreign ministers and military chiefs of the three countries in Yogyakarta’s presidential palace, Gedung Agung, on May 5.
“The three countries are in the process of discussing the patrol’s standard operating procedures, following the Yogyakarta meeting. We are pushing for that to happen soon,” Arrmanatha told reporters.