TERNATE, North Maluku, Indonesia - The private company that owns the Indonesian boats whose 10 crew members are being held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf militants in the Southern Philippines has agreed to hand over 50 million Peso (S$1.46 million) in ransom, said Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan on Tuesday (April 19).
"The next communications between the company and the hostage-taker may be on Wednesday or Thursday," Mr Luhut told reporters in Ternate, North Maluku province.
Mr Luhut added that efforts to free four other Indonesians being taken hostage in a later incident are still underway.
"Communications with the group taking hostage of the 10 Indonesians is smoother than with the other group holding 4 Indonesians," Mr Luhut added.
The Abu Sayyaf militants abducted the 10 Indonesians from the tugboats Brahma 12 and barge Anand 12 at sea around March 28, and demanded US$1 million (S$1.34 million) for their release. The militants did not take the the vessels, on of which carried more than 7,500 tonnes of coal.
Ms Sarah Lubis, corporate secretary of United Tractors, which owns the vessels whose 10 crew were taken, told The Straits Times by phone: "We are ready to do what is best for our crew members."
In a separate incident last Friday (April 15), pirates believed to be linked to the Abu Sayyaf militants struck again, taking four Indonesian sailors hostage.
The four men were part of a crew of 10 manning the tugboat TB Henry, which was towing a barge called Christi. They were en route to Tarakan, North Kalimantan, after unloading 8,000 tonnes of coal in the Philippine island of Cebu.
The hostage-takers did not manage to seize the tugboat or the barge, but a member of the crew was shot in the chest by one of the pirates after trying to resist capture.
The sailor who was wounded and the remaining five crewmen escaped and were rescued by Malaysian maritime police.
This is the third reported incident of piracy in just over two weeks involving a tugboat and barge formation and the second involving Indonesia-flagged vessels.
The Abu Sayyaf was formed by disgruntled Moro Islamic fighters in 1991 with funding from Al-Qaeda.
It is known for exortions, kidnappings, beheadings and bombings and has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group.
"They are a group that's motivated by money, not ideology," Mr Luhut said.