Abu Sayyaf in Philippines accused of kidnapping Indonesian sailors

MANILA, June 23 (UPI) — Abu Sayyaf, a militant Islamist organization that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, is accused of kidnapping seven Indonesian sailors off the coast of the Philippines.

The militant group headquartered in the Philippines — deemed a terrorist organization by the United Nations and the United States — has not yet contacted relevant officials, such as the police or the company for which the men worked, to make demands.

There were six men aboard the tugboat Charles who were set free by the militants. One of the men who was freed said the boat was taken by the Abu Sayyaf group, adding that they demanded a $4.9 million ransom payment.

“Relevant institutions in Indonesia are probing the situation to confirm the news, as well as looking for supporting evidence,” Wibanarto Eugenius, minister counselor at the Indonesian Embassy in Manila, told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

Attempted communication with the suspected kidnappers has been hampered by a language barrier, as the accused captors only speak the Tagalog language. The Abu Sayyaf militants suspected of kidnapping the sailors are also accused of carrying out a hijacking in March.

Abu Sayyaf, which was previously allied to al-Qaida, pledged loyalty to the Islamic State in 2014. About 5,000 Philippine soldiers were deployed last week to the country’s southern province of Sulu to track down Abu Sayyaf militants after the group beheaded two Canadian hostages.

Incoming Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to eliminate the group. Martial law may be imposed in some areas, allowing the government to impose strict curfews and suspend civil rights.

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