Nations Offer Aid in Fight Against Abu Sayyaf Piracy
Two nations recently offered help to the Philippines in combating the recent outbreak of maritime kidnappings perpetrated by the terrorist organization Abu Sayyaf. On Friday, Indonesian President Joko Widodo gave his approval for a "military option" to secure the release of seven Indonesian mariners who were captured in a hijacking last month, and on Monday, a U.S. Navy task force commander suggested that a longstanding American commitment to safe and free navigation in the region would continue.
Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu told The Star that would only be a last resort if diplomatic efforts were not successful, and would only follow cooperative drills with Philippine troops, to prevent friendly fire incidents. For now, he said that the Philippine armed forces were leading the response, and Indonesian forces would only deploy in support if requested. "If the hostages are lost and the Philippines asks for our cooperation, we'll do it," Ryacudu said.
Indonesia's Transportation Ministry says that it has suspended all coal exports to Philippine ports, and has issued a notice to harbor masters to the effect that they are "strictly prohibited from issuing permits to all Indonesian-flagged vessels bound for the Philippines." Indonesia supplies over two thirds of the Philippines' coal for power generation.
Separately, on Monday, U.S. Navy RAdm. Brian Hurley, commander of Seventh Fleet Task Force 73, told reporters that the U.S. is willing to assist if needed in the fight against Abu Sayyaf's maritime piracy. He said that the Navy has a history of aiding governments in the region to maintain freedom of navigation and secure shipping routes, and would continue to do so.
"We are always concerned about safety at sea and the freedom of navigation through the waters," Hurley said in an interview.
Newly elected Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has recently indicated a willingness to negotiate with Abu Sayyaf, but on Monday a military leader suggested that the government’s approach would be forceful. "You will see in July that there will be shock and awe," said Armed Forces chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya. "You are going to see results.”
Abu Sayyaf, a designated terrorist group affiliated with Islamic State, has developed a reputation for executing hostages when its demands are not met; it recently killed a two Canadian nationals, and on Monday it threatened to behead Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad. The three men were captured from a resort last fall.