ZAMBOANGA CITY – Malaysia has ordered its negotiators to intensify talks with the Abu Sayyaf in an effort to secure the freedom of five Malaysian tugboat crew members being held captive in the southern Philippine province of Sulu, reports said.
Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said he would direct the police to intensify communication and negotiations with the kidnappers to free the victims, according to the Malaysian newspaper The Star.
The Abu Sayyaf has contacted the newspaper and allowed one of the hostages Mohd Ridzuan Ismail to speak to its staff. Mohd Ridzuan was kidnapped in Sabah on July 18 with four other sailors – Tayudin Anjut, 45, Abd Rahim Summas, 62, Mohd Zumadil Rahim, 23, and Fandy Bakran, 26.
The 32-year old Mohd Ridzuan said they were constantly being beaten up and threatened by the Abu Sayyaf and pleaded desperately with their employer and Malaysian government to immediately secure their safe release.
“We can’t bear it anymore. We are in pain. All of us are sick. We have cuts on our bodies. We are weak. No food to eat. What’s more, we are beaten. There are people who want to shoot us. Please help us,” The Star quoted the sailor as saying during the eight minute conversation.
It said a man who introduced himself as Abu Rami demanded P100 million ransoms for the 5 hostages.
The hostage are being held in three separate groups by the Abu Sayyaf under Abu Khalif in the town called Luuk and that there were no government troops in the area.
“We’re suffering in Jolo (Sulu) Island. We appeal to the Malaysian government and our boss to negotiate for our release as we want to return home as soon as possible,” Mohd Ridzuan said, adding, their captors only give them rice and rarely feed them. “We are frightened. This is not our place. They whack us and they told us that they can shoot us.”
There were no immediate statements either from the Philippine government or the military forces. Thousands of troops have been deployed to Sulu, one of five provinces under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, to hunt down the Abu Sayyaf and rescue their hostages.
Just over the weekend, troops disarmed an improvised explosive planted by the Abu Sayyaf on a road in the village of Tagbak in Indanan town road where military patrols usually pass. Villagers discovered the device, made from ammonium nitrate and blasting cap hidden in a 30-liter container, and quickly informed the military about it. (Mindanao Examiner)
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