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.


Hong Kong bans pro-independence party

In this file photo taken on August 5, 2016, Andy Chan (R), leader of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party (HKNP), gives a press conference at the start of a rally near the government's headquarters in Hong Kong. (AFP)
Updated 24 September 2018
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Hong Kong bans pro-independence party

  • The ban is likely to raise further questions about Beijing’s growing influence in the former British colony, which was promised semi-autonomy as part of the 1997 handover

HONG KONG: Authorities in Hong Kong on Monday took an unprecedented step against separatist voices by banning a political party that advocates independence for the southern Chinese territory on national security grounds.
John Lee, the territory’s secretary for security, announced that the Hong Kong National Party will be prohibited from operation from Monday.
Lee’s announcement did not provide further details. But Hong Kong’s security bureau had previously said in a letter to the National Party’s leader, 27-year-old Andy Chan, that the party should be dissolved “in the interests of national security or public safety, public order or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.” Chan had no immediate comment.
That letter had cited a national security law that has not been invoked since 1997. The ban is likely to raise further questions about Beijing’s growing influence in the former British colony, which was promised semi-autonomy as part of the 1997 handover. Chinese President Xi Jinping and other officials have warned separatist activity would not be tolerated.
Chan, the National Party leader, had previously told The Associated Press that police approached him with documents detailing his speeches and activities since the party’s formation in 2016.
The party was founded in response to frustration about Beijing’s treatment of Hong Kong. Despite a promise of autonomy, activists complain mainland influence over its democratic elections is increasing.
Chan and other pro-independence candidates were disqualified from 2016 elections to the Hong Kong legislature after they refused to sign a pledge saying Hong Kong is an inalienable part of China. The Hong Kong National Party has never held any seats on the council.