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Jakarta Post

No ransom paid for release of 10 Indonesians, negotiator claims


    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, May 2, 2016   /  10:23 am
No ransom paid for release of 10 Indonesians, negotiator claims Neighbors and family of Bayu Oktavianto, an Indonesian sailor taken hostage by the Philippine Abu Sayyaf militant group, pray in gratitude for the release of Bayu and nine other Indonesian seamen in Klaten, Central Java, on Sunday. (Antara/Aloysius Jarot Nugroho)

Indonesia paid no ransom to free 10 sailors taken hostage by Philippine rebel group Abu Sayyaf, with efforts relying on negotiations, the lead Indonesian negotiator claimed on Monday.

The militant group had demanded a ransom of $1 million from the Indonesian government in exchange for releasing the 10 seamen held captive since March 26, setting an initial deadline of April 8.

However, the government paid no money to the terror group, according to retired army general Kivlan Zein, who led the Indonesian team of negotiators in the release efforts.

"The release was conducted without paying a ransom, based on negotiations and cooperation between the TNI [Indonesian military] and the Philippine military," Kivlan said on Monday as reported by Antara news agency.

Kivlan, who is currently in the Philippines, had conducted the negotiations since March 27, a day after Abu Sayyaf millitants took tugboat Brahma 12 and barge Anand 12. He was representing the company operating the vessels, PT Patria Maritime Lines, a subsidiary of Indonesia's biggest heavy equipment distributor, PT United Tractors Tbk.

Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan II, a nephew of Moro National Liberation Front founder Nur Misuari, provided the most support, Kivlan said. The approach to Abdusakur was made because one of the kidnappers, Al Habsy Misa, was the former's driver and security guard when Abusakur was the governor of the autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao from 1996 to 2001.

"As a company representative I asked for his help to talk the kidnapper around, and he succeeded in doing so," Kivlan told Antara.

Meanwhile, the TNI's Strategic Intelligence Agency and Philippine intelligence also made approaches to local administration chiefs in the southern province of Sulu. The local authorities also pressured the rebels with ground attacks and bombings to encourage them to release the hostages.

Kivlan remains in the Philippines, and is engaged in attempts to secure the release of four further Indonesian crew members taken by  the group.

"We know their locations. I have made contact with the figure who kidnapped the four Indonesians. Hopefully we can free them," said the former chief of the Army's Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad).

The 10 Indonesians were released on Sunday, less than a week after Abu Sayyaf beheaded Canadian citizen John Ridsdel when a sizeable ransom was not paid.

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