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10 Indonesian tug boat crewmen seized in Southern Philippines

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Jakarta and Manila were verifying reports about the abduction of 10 Indonesian tug boat crew members off Tawi-Tawi province in southern Philippines.

The Indonesian foreign ministry said the tug boat Brahma 12 came from Kalimantan and was heading to Batangas province in Luzon when it was hijacked over the weekend.

It said the owner of the boat received telephone from men who claimed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf and were demanding P50 million ransoms for the safe release of the Indonesians.

But the Philippine military headquarters in Manila has not confirmed the reports and even the Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City in southern Philippines did not release any report about the abductions to the press.

The report of the hijacking was first reported by Peter Tonsen Barahama, the tug boat’s skipper, after he wrote on his Facebook account that “Tug boat Brahma 12 is being hijacked, all crew are being held hostage by Abu Sayyaf. Pray for our safety and God’s protection.”

The Jakarta Post, in a report Tuesday, also said information about the hijacking first came to light via the Facebook account of Barahama. “The information then spread to an Indonesian sailors group. However, Peter’s friends have not been able to contact him to obtain further information. Peter is from Sangihe Island in North Sulawesi,” the report said.

The tugboat, owned by Patria Maritime Lines, is reportedly negotiating with the hostage-takers to secure the safe release of the victims, who were being held on an island in southern Philippines.

One of Barahama’s friends, Welmy Loway, said the tug boat was carrying coal. He and other friends then contacted the Indonesian foreign ministry and authorities inSangihe to check the information and seek help for the crew members.

Pirates and other criminal gangs are also actively operating in Tawi-Tawi, one of five provinces under the restive Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

In February 2012, Abu Sayyaf rebels under sub-leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan and Moro National Liberation Front members kidnapped two European wildlife photographers Lorenzo Vinciguerra, from Switzerland; and Ewold Horn, 54, from Holland, in the coastal village of Parangan in Panglima Sugala town in Tawi-Tawi.

Vinciguerra had escaped from his guards in December 2014 after he allegedly killed one of his guards – Juhurim Hussien – with a bolo and recovered by soldiers. The fate of Horn is still unknown, and aside from him, the Abu Sayyaf is still holding several other foreigners in the Muslim region. (Mindanao Examiner)

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