Militants free 3 Indonesian hostages in southern Philippines

Indonesians were freed Friday with the help of the Moro National Liberation Front, a rebel group that signed a peace deal with the Philippine government. (File/AFP)
Updated 16 September 2018
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Militants free 3 Indonesian hostages in southern Philippines

  • The released men are to be handed to the Indonesian ambassador in southern Zamboanga city later Sunday
  • Efforts by the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia to beef up security along their sea border have considerably eased piracy and kidnappings in the past months that were blamed primarily on the Abu Sayyaf group

MANILA, Philippines: Muslim militants have freed three Indonesian men they kidnapped at sea early last year off Malaysia then brought them to their jungle hideouts in the southern Philippines, officials said Sunday.

The Indonesians were freed Friday with the help of the Moro National Liberation Front, a rebel group that signed a peace deal with the Philippine government, in Indanan town in Sulu province, police said.

The released hostages, Hamdam Salim, Subandi Sattuh and Sudarlan Samansung, were to be handed to the Indonesian ambassador in southern Zamboanga city later Sunday, the military said.

While cruising on board a speedboat, the three were taken at gunpoint by suspected Abu Sayyaf militants off Malaysia’s Sabah state on Borneo island in January last year. The hostages were brought aboard motorboats to the gunmen’s jungle hideout in Sulu, a poor, predominantly Muslim province in the southern Philippines where the Abu Sayyaf has had a presence since the late 1980s, security officials said.

An Abu Sayyaf commander, Marjan Sahidjuan, who uses nom de guerre Apo Mike, led the abductors who freed the captives in exchange for a ransom, a security official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to talk to media.

Regional military spokesman Lt. Col. Gerry Besana said the military is unaware of any ransom payment and added that relentless offensives pressured the kidnappers to let go of their hostages.

Efforts by the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia to beef up security along their massive sea border have considerably eased piracy and kidnappings in the past months primarily by the Abu Sayyaf, which is blacklisted by the United States and the Philippines as a terrorist organization.

The Philippine police, however, said that the two Indonesian skippers of a Malaysian fishing boat were abducted on Tuesday off Semporna Islands in Sabah, Malaysia, and also taken by suspected militants armed with M-16 rifles toward the southern Philippines.

The Philippine military said it was trying to confirm the reported kidnapping.


Pigeons and balloons as Pakistan prepares for Saudi crown prince’s visit

Updated 8 min 31 sec ago
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Pigeons and balloons as Pakistan prepares for Saudi crown prince’s visit

  • Islamabad is hoping to sign a raft of investment deals and other agreements during the crown prince’s visit

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan was rescheduling flights, blocking off luxury hotels and, according to one report on Friday, collecting 3,500 pigeons and colorful balloons to release during a welcome ceremony for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Islamabad is hoping to sign a raft of investment deals and other agreements during the crown prince’s visit, which will include talks with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa.

Banners heralding the crown prince were already lining the streets of the capital on Friday, while the Express Tribune newspaper reported that authorities were trying to catch so many pigeons for a welcome ceremony that they were
forced to collect birds from other cities.

Police, the armed forces and the Saudi Royal Guards will provide security, said a senior Islamabad police official.

The capital’s “red zone,” which houses Parliament House and the presidency, was to be sealed off, while civil aviation authorities have been told to reschedule flights during the crown prince’s arrival and departure.

Officials said that Pakistan had taken measures to ensure that fool-proof security arrangements are in place ahead of the royal visit.

“The main security arrangements have been handed over to the army,” said Islamabad Capital Territory Police spokesman Naeem Iqbal. “The police will assist the army and ensure a smooth flow of traffic in the city.”

A traffic plan has been devised to avoid congestion on the main roads, he added. 

When asked about the deployment of police personnel, he said: “Around 4,000 personnel have been deployed in the city. All the important locations are manned, including the entry and exit points of the federal capital.”

Iqbal added that 1,200 security pickets were being set up at different points of the city. Authorities in the capital said two five-star hotels had been ordered to cancel all advance bookings as the rooms will be reserved for the crown prince’s entourage.

Local media reported earlier in the week that his personal belongings, including luxury vehicles and his own gym, were flown to Pakistan in two C130 airplanes.

The crown prince is expected to sign a range of agreements worth up to $15 billion, including deals for three power plants in Pakistan’s Punjab province and an oil refinery and petrochemical complex in the coastal city of Gwadar in Balochistan province.

“We’re working with full speed on technical and feasibility studies for the establishment of the oil refinery and petrochemical complex in Gwadar … and will perform the ground-breaking by early 2020,” Pakistani Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan told Arab News.

Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman said that Islamabad is seeking to sign a number of other deals, including one “combating organized crime.”

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are participating in talks with the US and other countries seeking to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table with Kabul after more than 17 years of war.