Thursday, May 19, 2005

Indonesia And Philippines Team Up To Free Hostages

A previously unknown Filipino militant group has issued a threat to execute one of the three Indonesian hostages of a Sandakan-registered tugboat if their demands are not met. Calling itself Jammi al-Islamiah Southern Mindanao, the group has given today as the deadline to hand over a RM3mil ransom for the release of Bonggaya 91 skipper Resmiadi, 31, and seamen Erikson Hutagol, 23, and Yamin Labuso, 26. This ultimatum was sent on Monday to Rudy Setiawan, the Indonesian consulate’s police liaison officer here. “We have informed Jakarta and our embassy in Manila as well as the Philippine and Malaysian authorities and the tugboat owner of the ultimatum,” consul Chairul S. Natadisastra told The Star yesterday. He said that two Filipino negotiators in Tawi Tawi and Zamboanga City were in contact with the armed group that was believed to be holding the hostages in one of the 36 chain of Tawi Tawi islands in southern Philippines. The consulate received several SMS in the last two weeks since the three men were kidnapped off Pulau Mataking on March 30. Initially the group, believed to be a breakaway faction of the Moro National Liberation Front, had asked that a particular cell phone number be reloaded with airtime to keep communications open. The group, purportedly led by Abu Ali and Abu Asad, also requested a camcorder, batteries, four tapes, medicine and food. Chairul said the group admitted that they were targeting Malaysian crewmen when they raided the tugboat. “Through the emissaries, an ordinary camera, medicine, food and clothing were sent to them some time in the middle of last month,” he said, adding that one of the hostages was probably down with malaria. Chairul said the group had questioned why Jemaah Islamiah leader Abu Bakar Bashir was arrested by Indonesia and why Malaysia had deported MNLF leader Nur Misuari who is now in a Manila prison. Later, the group demanded RM3mil for “board and lodging”, a Filipino euphemism for ransom. “We (Indonesia), like Malaysia and the Philippines, have a policy of no ransom payment,” Chairul said, adding that tugboat owner Syarikat Pengakutan Bonggaya Sdn Bhd was aware of the demands. The Malaysian police have also sought the assistance of Manila to secure the release of the hostages.
Chairul: 'Two Filipino negotiators are in contact with the armed group'