Category: Defence

Two armed groups abducted Indonesian sailors in the Philippines

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.

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Tugboat Charles, which was ambushed twiceand whose seven crew have been kidnapped by armed groups in the southern Philippines waters. Photo courtesy of Indonesian Navy

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.

 

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No more Natuna spat with China, Indonesia says

Indonesia said it has resolved the incident last month when a Chinese coast guard vessel rammed into its fishing boat apprehended by an Indonesian patrol boat for poaching in the waters off Natuna Island, which borders the South China Sea.

“It is considered resolved, it was a misunderstanding. We respect each other, there is no competing claims at all,” Pramono said according to a press release posted on the cabinet secretary’s website Wednesday.

Pramono didn’t elaborate further on his statement, which came after President Joko Widodo met with a Chinese government delegation led by head of its international relations and foreign affairs, Song Tao.

But deputy foreign minister AM Fachir, who was also present at the meeting, said there were no mention about the incident during the meeting.

“There were no discussions regarding the Natuna,” Fachir told The Parrot on Thursday.

Hikmahanto Juwana, an international law professor at the University of Indonesia, regretted Pramono’s statement, saying that the incident showed that Chinese government had tried to assert its nine dash line claim, which extends into Indonesian waters.

He added that a problem regarding Indonesia’s sovereign rights in the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf should not be taken lightly and that Indonesian officials should not be lenient when dealing with a country like China.

“We need to remember that President Jokowi’s free and active foreign policy is that every country is a friend until they infringe on our territory or sovereign rights,” he told The Parrot.

He added that it would be better if the government start some exploration and exploitation on the Natuna waters continental shelf as a “display of authority” so that in the future China would not easily assert its claim based on its nine-dash line.

“In the future, we have to be firm and assertive if China infringes on Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone or continental shelf,” he said.

Indonesia protested China the incident at the end of last month that occurred in the northernmost maritime frontier near the Natuna Islands. China’s assertion of its claim to the entire disputed South China Sea is mark by the nine-dash-line which extends into Natuna. China has said that the Kwan Fey boat was fishing in China’s traditional fishing ground.

The maritime affairs and fisheries patrol boat, which was towing the boat when it was rammed, let the fishing boat go but arrested its eight crew.

Maritime affairs and fisheries minister Susi Pudjiastuti, who spearheads Indonesia’s crusade against illegal fishing which cost the country up to $20 billion annually, said the case was still being investigated.

“We would only prosecute the captain, master engineer and fishing master. The rest of the crew will be deported,” she told journalists during a media gathering earlier this month.

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