Kidnappings by the Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf group have prompted Indonesia to call for joint maritime patrols with the Philippines and Malaysia.
The abductions have taken place in waters near the southern Philippines island of Mindanao.
“Around 14 Indonesians and four Malaysians have been abducted in recent weeks by groups with suspected links to the militant group Abu Sayyaf,” reports Reuters.
“We are trying to set up cooperation on coordinated patrols between Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines,” Tatang Sulaiman, spokesman for the Indonesian military, told Reuters.
“If there is some kind of disturbance or security threat, it could be overcome in (our) respective areas,” added Sulaiman, noting that Indonesia had already deployed two warships to the area.
The Filipino group Aby Sayyaf, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), is known for kidnappings, beheading, bombings, and extortions.
Currently, the group is holding hostage 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,” reports Reuters.
In a video that emerged last Friday, the two Canadian hostages made a “final urgent appeal” for their government to save them from imminent decapitation by Abu Sayyaf.
The two Canadians, identified as John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, speak directly to the camera with machetes pressed against their throat.
“We’re told this is the absolute final warning, the final urgent appeal to governments — Philippine, Canadian — and families,” Riddle reportedly says. “If 300 million [Philippine pesos, or $8.3 million] is not paid for me by 3 p.m. on April 25th, they will behead me.”
“My specific appeal is to the Canadian government, who I know has the capacity to get us out of here. I’m wondering what they’re waiting for,” adds Hall.
The Philippines has reportedly urged Canada not to pay a ransom for its citizens.
“The country says refusing to pay a ransom, as demanded by the Abu Sayyaf terror group, is the only way to stop Philippines’ thriving kidnap ‘industry,’” reports Canada’s Postmedia Network and Reuters.
“The armed forces continues to encourage everyone to observe the government’s no ransom policy,” Brig.-Gen. Restituto Padilla, a spokesman for the Philippine military, told reporters.
He added that the military wanted to “discourage this kind of growing industry” and deprive the rebels from funds that would ultimately strengthen them.