05/02/2016, 09.24
PHILIPPINES - INDONESIA
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Jolo, 10 Indonesian sailors freed: they were held by Abu Sayyaf

by Mathias Hariyadi

On April 26 last the terrorist group beheaded a Canadian hostage. The crew members were found yesterday in front of the house of the governor of Sulu. In good condition, they were transported to Jakarta. Mystery over the payment of a ransom: according to Philippine media it amounted to 900 thousand euro, but Indonesia denies any knowledge.

Manila (AsiaNews) - The 10 Indonesian sailors kidnapped by Filipino Islamic extremists Abu Sayyaf have been released. They were freed yesterday, following an announcement on national television by President Joko Widodo. The hostages were found in Jolo, in front of the house of the governor of Sulu (southern Philippines).

They are "in good condition" and have already been repatriated through Halim Perdana Kusuma airport (South Jakarta). They had been kidnapped on March 26 in the southern waters of the Philippines, while they were on board a ship carrying coal, belonging to Patria Maritime Lines.

Mystery surrounds the payment of a ransom. According to some Philippine media, they were released on the back of a payment of 50 million pesos to Abu Sayyaf (about EUR 900 thousand). Indonesian newspapers have not yet responded, while members of the government were quick to deny any knowledge. The former general Kivlan Zen said that the happy ending is the result of an "Indonesian mission": "No ransom was paid. The release came after intense negotiations".

Staffer at the Indonesian Embassy in Manila Eddy Mulya, also denied the payment of a ransom to the terrorists. According to the diplomat, the team who led the negotiations were following Badoewi Rizal orders, whose details are not known. Jakarta’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi was present at the airport to welcome the sailors home but declined to comment, only saying that men will be sent to hospital for medical checks and then reunited with their families.

Abu Sayyaf is the smallest group in number but the most dangerous and bloodthirsty among Muslim movements fighting for independence in the southern Philippines, the only Asian nation with a large Christian Catholic majority. The terrorists' activities are concentrated in Basilan and Jolo. The jihadists are responsible for the beheading of the Canadian John Ridsdel, which took place on 26 April. According to some sources, the group could be the same that a few days ago released the former PIME missionary Rolando Del Torchio.

Currently, 11 foreign nationals are still in the hands of Abu Sayyaf: Four Indonesians, four Malaysians, a Canadian, a Norwegian and a Dutchman.

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