'No ransom paid' for release of 10 abducted crewmen

The Indonesian crewmen arriving for a ceremony to mark their reunion with their families at the Foreign Ministry office in Jakarta yesterday.
The Indonesian crewmen arriving for a ceremony to mark their reunion with their families at the Foreign Ministry office in Jakarta yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

JAKARTA • Indonesia said yesterday that no ransom was paid for the release of 10 Indonesian crewmen who walked free after more than a month in the hands of Abu Sayyaf militants in the Philippines.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said the government, which adopts a no-ransom policy, had opened all channels of communication with as many parties as possible in both Indonesia and the Philippines. The militants had earlier demanded 50 million pesos (S$1.4 million) in ransom.

"Efforts to release the boat crew went through a long process and the situation on the ground was very dynamic and had a high level of complication," she said at a news conference.

THREAT TO SLIT THROATS

We were all stressed out because they frequently threatened to slit our throats.

MR JULIAN PHILIP, one of the abducted crewmen, on the kidnappers' threat.

Ms Retno also travelled to Manila on April 1 to meet President Benigno Aquino and expanded Indonesia's network of communications with the various parties there.

The Abu Sayyaf rebels abducted the Indonesians from a tugboat and a barge on March 29. The militants abandoned the tugboat but seized the barge.

Indonesian negotiator Kivlan Zein, the former chief of staff of the Army Strategic Command (Kostrad), was quoted by Antara news agency as saying he had received help from Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan II.

The governor is a nephew of Nur Misuari, the ideologue leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) separatist group, whose former driver belonged to the Abu Sayyaf group.

The rebels released the Indonesians and handed them to the Sulu governor on Sunday. They were reunited with their families in Jakarta yesterday. Doctors said the men were healthy.

One of the crewmen, Mr Julian Philip, said they were taken hostage by eight militants disguised in Philippine police uniforms, Agence France-Presse reported.

They were taken to an island, divided into two groups and moved every few days to avoid the Philippine military assault, Mr Philip was quoted as saying.

"We were all stressed out because they frequently threatened to slit our throats," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 03, 2016, with the headline ''No ransom paid' for release of 10 abducted crewmen'. Print Edition | Subscribe