Southeast Asian nations to cooperate vs kidnappers
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia agreed Monday, June 20, to consider coordinated steps including possible joint patrols to tackle a wave of seaborne crime, after a Filipino kidnap-for-ransom gang captured numerous foreigners and murdered some of them.
Defense ministers from the three nations met in Manila to discuss security following the abduction of Malaysians and Indonesians by the Philippine-based Abu Sayyaf earlier this year.
The group kidnapped four Malaysian seamen and 14 Indonesian sailors, holding them in the strife-torn south. They were freed several months later but there was no information on whether a ransom was paid.
Two Canadians also held by the group were beheaded after a ransom deadline passed.
The ministers raised concern at recent seaborne kidnappings and armed robberies and "reaffirmed the need, commitment and collective responsibility of the countries to address such threats that undermine peace, security and prosperity of the region," a joint statement said.
They agreed to consider establishing joint military command posts and three-nation sea and air patrols, it added, without singling out the Abu Sayyaf.
The ministers also agreed to consider a transit corridor which would serve as a designated sea lane.
The three countries have already been conducting joint patrols and set up a hotline to deal with attacks by the Abu Sayyaf, who have previously launched raids into Malaysia and attacked Indonesian ships at sea.
Last year Malaysian Bernard Then was kidnapped from a seaside restaurant in Sabah, about 300 kilometers (180 miles) from the Abu Sayyaf's Jolo stronghold. He was later killed by the group.
Earlier this year the Abu Sayyaf killed the two Canadians they seized from a Philippine yachting resort last September. They are still holding a Norwegian and a Filipina abducted from the same resort, a Japanese treasure hunter kidnapped in 2010 and a Dutch bird watcher abducted in 2012.
Founded in the 1990s with the help of Al-Qaeda, the Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for some of the Philippines' worst terror attacks including bombings and kidnappings for ransom.
Its leaders have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria group (ISIS) but analysts say they are more focused on kidnappings for ransom than setting up a caliphate. – Rappler.com