JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesia’s president said Wednesday that four citizens held hostage for nearly a month in the southern Philippines have been released.
Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said in a televised address that the men are under the protection of Philippine authorities and are in good condition.
They were kidnapped at sea in mid-April by suspected Abu Sayyaf militants, the third in a series of attacks on tugboats that sparked a regional maritime security alarm.
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Jokowi said a meeting last week of foreign ministers and military chiefs from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines on improving security in border areas facilitated the release of the hostages.
“I am grateful,” he said. “This operation is one of the results of the implementation of the meeting.”
Earlier this month, Abu Sayyaf militants freed 10 Indonesian crewmen who were seized at sea in March and believed taken to a jungle camp in Sulu, a predominantly Muslim province about 950 kilometres (590 miles) south of the Philippine capital, Manila.
Indonesia’s government has denied it paid a ransom for the release of its citizens.
In late April, Abu Sayyaf gunmen beheaded a Canadian hostage in Sulu after they failed to receive a large ransom by a deadline they had set.
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At least eight foreign and local hostages remain in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf, including another Canadian and a Norwegian who were kidnapped last September, and a Dutch bird watcher who was kidnapped more than three years ago.