TNI sends warships to border with Philippines

The Commander of the Indonesian Defense Forces (TNI), General Gatot Nurmantyo, has said TNI has sent two warships to the countrys border with the Philippines in response to the latest abduction of Indonesian citizens by the Abu Sayyaf Group.

"I have prepared forces on land, on the sea and in air to take action along the border with the Philippines," he said at an event to mark the commemoration of the 64th anniversary of the armys special force, Kopassus, in Cijantung, East Jakarta, on Saturday.

He admitted he received information that on Friday at around 18.20pm, some Indonesian citizens had been abducted in the waters along the border between Malaysia and the Philippines.

"One has been shot in the armpit and four others have been held hostage. Six others are safe and are now in Sabah. The one who was shot is in Malaysia. There were indications that the Abu Sayyaf group was behind it but investigations were still on," he elaborated.

He said after that incident, TNI sent two warships - KRI Badau-841 and KRI Slamet Riyaid-352 - to the border area to guard it.

"I reaffirm that TNI has prepared forces to take any firm action in the sea, on land and even in the forests. We are ready. When to act depends upon coordination with the Philippine government," he said.

General Nurmantyo said he would coordinate with the commanders of the armed forces of Malaysia and the Philippines to jointly conduct coordinated patrolling.

"Coordinated joint patrolling means we will patrol up to the outermost limit of the Exclusive Economic Zone. Beyond that, it will be the responsibility of Philippines or Malaysia, depending upon whose territory it is," he said.

However, if anything happens in Malaysian or the Philippines areas, any force that reaches first could handle the matter, he explained.

"Certain measures will be immediately carried out. Thats the deal we will make later, and it will include a clause like that (allowing forces to reach the location where any law and order incident happens)," he said.

General Nurmantyo said he was optimistic that if a memorandum of understanding for joint patrolling is signed, the waters along the borders of the three countries will be safe.

"I will coordinate with Malaysia and the Philippines because the area where the incident occurred was close to the border of the three countries. Right now, the Philippines personnel are conducting massive operations in the Zulu islands. Let us just wait," he said.

Coordinating Minister for Political, Security and Legal Affairs Luhut Binsar Panjaitan confirmed on the occasion that an abduction did take place again and four Indonesian citizens were being held hostage.

He made it clear that as of now, the Indonesian government was still studying the measures that needed to be taken in response to the incident.

"We will conduct a review from time to time. A crisis center is already operating under my office and we will monitor the development closely to see whether it has to do with politics or is merely a case of ransom seeking," he said.

He said it was not impossible to have cooperation with the Philippines and Malaysia for a joint patrol in the waters in that area to deal with piracy.

"As for the earlier incident of abduction, negotiations were still underway, and were being conducted by the business owners. Let them continue with it, and we will monitor it. We will wait until Monday (April 18). I wish to tell that negotiations could not be conducted faster," he explained.

The Abu Sayyaf terrorist group claimed to have hijacked tugboat Brahma 12 and barge Anand 12 which were on their way from Sungai Puting in South Kalimantan to Batangas in South Philippines.

The owner of the vessels received a call from someone claiming to be a member of the Abu Sayyaf group on March 26. Thats how he came to know that ten Indonesian citizens had been held hostage.

The Abu Sayyaf group demanded a 50 million peso ransom, equivalent to about Rp14.2 billion.

Negotiations were on to secure the release of 10 Indonesian citizens currently being held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines, President Joko Widodo stated here on Friday.

"Communication is still on with the hostage takers apart from initiating diplomatic measures between the two countries," he stated after opening the 8th Conference of the United Development Party.

He reiterated that the government was prioritizing the safety of the hostages in its efforts to secure their release.

Source: Antara News