Indonesia calls for joint regional maritime patrols after kidnappings

JAKARTA Indonesia has called for joint maritime patrols with the Philippines and Malaysia, a military spokesman said on Tuesday, after a spate of kidnappings in waters near the southern Philippines by suspected militants.

Around 14 Indonesians and four Malaysians have been abducted in recent weeks by groups with suspected links to militant network Abu Sayyaf.

"We are trying to set up cooperation on coordinated patrols between Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines," Indonesian military spokesman Tatang Sulaiman told Reuters.

"If there is some kind of disturbance or security threat, it could be overcome in (our) respective areas," Sulaiman said, adding Indonesia had already sent two warships to the area.

Abu Sayyaf, known for kidnappings, beheadings, bombings and extortion, is one of the most hardline Islamist militant groups in the Muslim south of the largely Christian Philippines.

The group is holding other foreigners, including one from the Netherlands, one from Japan, one from Norway and two from Canada.

The Philippine military has said the militants have been targeting foreign crew of slow moving tugboats because they can no longer penetrate resorts and coastal towns in Malaysia's eastern Sabah state due to increased security.

(Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman)

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