Indonesia focuses on dialogue to rescue kidnapped sailors

The government has intensified efforts to rescue 10 Indonesian sailors held captive for ransom by a militant group in the Philippines by focusing on dialogue as the location of the kidnapping was in other country's territory, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo says.

The government also established a quick-response team based in the country's border areas in Tarakan of North Kalimantan.
"Dialogue must be prioritized to rescue the kidnapped crewmen," Jokowi said after watching a soccer match between Bandung-based Persib and Malang-based Arema in the Bhayangkara Cup at Bung Karno Stadium on Sunday evening.

The quick-response team consists of Indonesian Military (TNI), National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) and the National Intelligence Agency (BIN) personnel to prepare a rescue operation.

Jokowi said he was monitoring the activities of the team and had assigned Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi to lead talks with the Philippine government.

"We cannot enter [the territory] freely," he said.

TNI chief Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo said the TNI was ready to lend assistance if needed to obtain the release the Indonesian hostages.

However, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) declined Indonesia's offer, saying the rescue was an internal matter.

“Per our Constitution, we do not allow [foreign] military forces here without a treaty,” said AFP spokesperson Col. Restituto Padilla as quoted by last week.

Minister Retno says Indonesia's the top priority is the safety of the 10 sailors. She visited the Philippines on Friday as part of increasing efforts by the government to coordinate with the Philippine government.

As reported, two-Indonesian-flagged vessels, the Brahma 12 and the Anand 12, were hijacked in Philippine waters by south Philippines-based militant group Abu Sayyaf on March 26.

Brahma 12 has been released to Philippine authorities while the Anand 12 along with its 10 Indonesian crewmen are being held for ransom.

The group contacted the vessels' owners and demanded a ransom of $1 million, with the deadline on April 8. (rin)

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