The Jakarta Post
The southern Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf militant group has been considerably weakened by the Philippine military, which continues to conduct offensive measures to secure the release of Indonesian sailors being held hostage, a minister has said.
The group’s members are the perpetrators behind numerous boat hijackings and hostage-taking cases in Sulu waters.
Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said on Tuesday that the operation, which has deployed about 10,000 Filipino military personnel, joined by a number of rebel group Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) troops, had successfully wiped out Abu Sayyaf's headquarters in Basilan province and the militant group’s numbers were reduced by over 100 members from a total of 300.
"The military offense was putting pressure on the militants to always be on alert [so their guard on the hostages loosened]. It created a chance for the sailors to flee from the captors,” he said, referring to two hostages who escaped Abu Sayyaf on Aug. 17.
Indonesia appreciated Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's serious commitment to putting an end to the string of hijacking and kidnapping cases, Ryamizard said, adding that he would continue to coordinate with his Filipino counterpart to push for the immediate release of the remaining nine hostages.
On Indonesia's Independence Day, two of seven Indonesian crewmen from the tugboat Charles successfully escaped their captors after being held hostage for over 50 days in the southern Philippines. There is no information yet regarding the sailors' return to Indonesia.
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