Ship owner ready to pay ransom for crew taken hostage in Philippines

The company that owns the tugboat that was hijacked by the Abu Sayyaf terror group in the southern Philippines last month is ready to pay a ransom for the release of the 10 Indonesians who were taken hostage during the incident, a senior ministers said.

“I was told about the decision yesterday,” Chief Security Minister Luhut B. Pandjaitan was reported by local media as saying on Tuesday.

Luhut said the government was still adopting a “wait-and-see” approach and that it was monitoring the situation for further progress in the negotiations.

“The ship’s owner has communicated directly with the hostage takers. But the government is still waiting for further progress in the situation,” Luhut said.

The decision by shipping firm Patria Maritime Lines to pay the ransom comes despite the government’s move to facilitate the release and to even prepare special forces for a strike on the Abu Sayyaf. The terror group has demanded that the ransom must be paid before Friday.

“I think it’s the company’s decision. The government only monitors the situation, because it’s the best strategy we can take right now,” the minister said.

The 10 Indonesians were taken hostage on March 26 when the militants hijacked an Indonesian-flagged tugboat and barge en route to the Philippines from Banjarmasin in East Kalimantan.

The Abu Sayyaf group has long been notorious for carrying out kidnappings, beheadings, bombings and extortion. The group, which has been a major influence on other terror groups in Southeast Asia, has demanded a $1 million ransom for the release of the Indonesian hostages.

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