Indonesian firm agrees to pay ransom for crew

Indonesian mother Asmizar holding up a mobile phone showing a photograph of her son Wendy Rahadian - one of the ten members of a tugboat crew who were kidnapped by Islamic militants in the Philippines - in Padang, West Sumatra province, on March 31,
Indonesian mother Asmizar holding up a mobile phone showing a photograph of her son Wendy Rahadian - one of the ten members of a tugboat crew who were kidnapped by Islamic militants in the Philippines - in Padang, West Sumatra province, on March 31, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

The owner of the Indonesian boats whose 10 crew members are being held hostage by militants in the southern Philippines has agreed to pay 50 million pesos (S$1.45 million) in ransom.

Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan confirmed this yesterday, saying the company and the militants, believed to be linked to Abu Sayyaf, may next communicate today or tomorrow.

Meanwhile, efforts to free four other Indonesians held hostage in a later incident are still under way, Mr Luhut told reporters in Ternate, North Maluku province. "Communications with the group taking hostage of the 10 Indonesians is smoother than with the other group holding four Indonesians," he said.

The militants abducted the 10 Indonesians from the tugboat Brahma 12 and barge Anand 12 at sea on March 29, and demanded US$1 million (S$1.34 million) for their release. The pirates abandoned the tugboat but held the barge. The vessels were on their way to Batangas in southern Philippines and were carrying more than 7,500 tonnes of coal.

In a separate incident last Friday, pirates believed to be linked to the Abu Sayyaf militants struck again, taking four Indonesian sailors hostage.

Ms Sarah Lubis, corporate secretary of United Tractors, which owns the vessels that the 10 crew members were taken from, told The Straits Times: "We are ready to do what is best for our crew members."

This is the third reported incident of piracy in just over two weeks involving a tugboat and a barge and the second involving Indonesia- flagged vessels.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2016, with the headline 'Indonesian firm agrees to pay ransom for crew'. Print Edition | Subscribe