Indonesia said Tuesday that 10 of its citizens are being held hostage in the Philippines after their ship was hijacked in the often-insecure border region between the two countries.
The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the owner of the hijacked tug boat and coal barge has received two telephone calls, purportedly from the militant group Abu Sayyaf, demanding a ransom.
It said it was unclear when the incident occurred but that the ship owner was first contacted on Saturday. The ministry referred to the hostage-takers as pirates.
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told a news conference that she is working with Indonesian and Philippine officials to coordinate a rescue.
"Our priority is the safety of 10 Indonesian nationals who are now still in the hands of the hostage-takers," she said.
UPDATE 31 March:
Meanwhile, the Indonesian-flagged barge, the Anand 12, with its 10 crew members are still being held by the hijackers, with their whereabouts unknown.
As World Maritime News reported, the crew members were kidnapped on March 26th following the hijacking of the two vessels in the Philippine waters.
The ships were attacked during their voyage from Sungai Puting, South Kalimatan to Batangas, South Philippines, the ministry confirmed, adding that the barge was carrying some 7,000 tons of coal.
The ministry said that it had received the information on the hijackings on March 28th and that it was in communication with relevant shipowners ever since.
As disclosed, the ship owners learned of the attacks on March 26th upon receiving a phone call from someone claiming to be a member of the Islamic extremist group, the Abu Sayyaf.
“During the phone conversation with the ship owners, the hijackers/hostage takers demanded ransom money. Since March 26th, those responsible have contacted the ship owners twice,” the ministry said in a statement.
The ransom is reportedly set at 50 million pessos (USD 1.07 million).
According to the ministry, the parties are working on the release of the kidnapped crew, whose safety has been given “top priority” by the Indonesian government.