ASIA

Afghanistan

5 November Officials said that an Australian woman working for a non-governmental organisation (NGO) had been kidnapped in Kabul along with her Afghan driver. It was not clear what had happened to the driver. A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra, Australia, said in an e-mailed statement on 6 November: “The Australian Embassy in Kabul is making urgent enquiries into reports an Australian has been kidnapped in Kabul. Due to the nature of the incident, we will not be commenting further”. The Afghan TV station, Tolo News, said the Australian woman was kidnapped at gunpoint in the Qala-i-Fatullah area in the centre of Kabul. On 6 November, a police official in the Kabul police chief’s office, speaking on condition of anonymity said the woman was over 40 years old and working for the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (Acbar). The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade released a statement: “We continue to advise Australians not to travel to Afghanistan because of the extremely dangerous security situation, including the serious threat of kidnapping”.

19 November According to the Ministry of Interior (MoI), security forces rescued a man who had been kidnapped in Kandahar province. The kidnappers were demanding a ransom of 5 million Pakistan Rupees (PKR) (USD47,700). Four suspects were arrested during the operation in Kandahar City. This incident comes as kidnap for ransom cases have been rising across the country.

India

11 November A two year old girl, Roshni, was kidnapped from a stroller outside her house in Khothra village near Behram of SBS Nagar (Nawanshahr) district during the evening by three youths riding bicycles. The body of the victim was found in Nadalo village near Kot Fatuhi of Hoshiarpur district on the morning of 13 November. The police intercepted a call from the kidnappers to the family demanding a ransom. From their investigation the police identified and arrested the three criminals. The police said: “Kidnappers who are in their twenties, had demanded a ransom of Rs.50 lakh (USD74,600) from the family after killing the girl”. It later emerged that, after kidnapping their victim, the kidnappers were unable to stop her crying so they strangled her and dumped the body in some fields.

20 November Devakumar (12) was kidnapped while walking to a music class with a friend when men in an autorickshaw asked the way to a hospital as one of the passengers was feeling ill. Devakumar agreed to show them the way and got into the autorickshaw. The kidnappers gagged him, tied his hands and legs and took him to an isolated location. His friend reported the incident to his parents who in turn told the victim’s parents. A complaint was filed with the police. On 21 November, the kidnappers contacted the victim’s family and demanded a ransom of Rs.20 lakh (USD 39,500) that was to be paid in banned Rs.500 and Rs.1000 bills. The victim’s father agreed to pay Rs.2 lakh (USD3,950). The kidnappers gave instructions for the delivery of the money and the police mounted an entrapment operation, arrested four men and rescued the victim.

Pakistan

26 November At least seven people including four officials working with a Polish oil and gas company, were kidnapped from a site in the Frontier Region Dera Ismail Khan by unidentified armed men. Three levies responsible for the security of the company personnel were among those kidnapped. The members of the company were conducting a survey in the area when they inadvertently entered a prohibited area close to the boundary with South Waziristan Agency. The kidnappers drove the victims away in four company vehicles to an unknown destination.

FAR EAST

Malaysia

5 November The Eastern Sabah Security Commander confirmed that two Indonesian fishing boat captains, aged 52 years and 46 years, had been kidnapped in two separate incidents at around 11:00am and 11:45am about three nautical miles apart in Kertam waters, 15 nautical from the Kinabatangan river. In the first incident, five gunmen in a speedboat boarded a fishing vessel kidnapping the captain and leaving two fishermen behind. As the kidnappers fled, they attacked a second fishing boat, kidnapping the captain and leaving three others, including the captain’s 10 year old son, behind. The gunmen, three of whom were wearing fatigues and the other two civilian clothes, stole all the communications equipment including GPS systems from the fishing vessels. This was the seventh kidnapping incident off the east coast of Sabah this year.

10 November Prime Minister Najib Razak said after meeting Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte who was on a two day visit to Malaysia that the President had agreed to allow Malaysian and Indonesian forces to enter Filipino waters to carry out “hot pursuit” operations. The three nations are looking to tackle kidnappings and piracy by Islamic militants of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). At present, ASG are believed to be holding 15 captives including a Dutch citizen, five Malaysians, two Indonesians, seven Filipinos and a German. The Prime Minister added that the agreement would be discussed further during a planned meeting between the three countries in Vientiane on 22 November.

20 November The Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) confirmed that two Indonesian fishermen had been kidnapped the previous day in Lahad Datu waters at around 7:30pm when a group of fishermen were fishing in the Meraburg area. Five masked and armed men in a speedboat approached a fishing trawler with 13 crew on board. The men boarded the trawler, destroyed the communications system, confiscated all telephones, stole money belonging to the crew and kidnapped Saparuddin Koni (43), the Captain, and his assistant, Sawal Maryam (36). The pirates then fled towards international waters. The remaining fishermen sought help from another fishing boat that they came across about one hour after the kidnapping incident who alerted Esscom operations centre.

21 November After a meeting between representatives of Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines, Indonesian Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu said that joint military training involving security forces from the three countries would take place in Tarakan, North Kalimantan, Indonesia, Tawao Island, Malaysia, and Bongoa Island, the Philippines. The training is designed to combat the growing threat from terrorism and piracy in the Sulu Sea.

25 November The senior representative of the Indonesian Consulate in Tawau, Krishna Dielani, made the following statement to reporters: “On Tuesday, the consulate held a meeting with 10 employers in the fishing industry and fishermen’s association representatives and informed them that Indonesian fishermen need to temporarily stop their fishing activities until their safety in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZone) waters is ensured. If this advisory is not abided by the Indonesian fishermen, they have to bear risks, including kidnapping”. He added that there are 1,500 Indonesian fishermen employed in the districts of Kunak, Lahad Datu, Tawau and Semporna at present.

Philippines

2 November The United States Embassy in Manila released an advisory that said: “US citizens should avoid travel to Dalguete and Santander (to include Sumilon Island) in the southern portion of Cebu and are reminded to review personal security plans; remain aware of their surroundings, including local events; and monitor local news stations for updates. Be vigilant and take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security. Furthermore, the Embassy wishes to remind US citizens of the most recent Department of State Worldwide Caution, dated September 13, 2016, which indicates there is an ongoing threat of terrorist actions and violence against US citizens and interests abroad, including the Philippines”. It concluded by reminding US citizens to exercise caution while travelling in the country and warned that crowded places like malls, clubs and transportation hubs were common targets of terror attacks. As a result of the warning, the Philippines National Police (PNP) increased security in the Cebu area.

4 November President Rodrigo Duterte said in a speech before members of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines that as a result of the scarcity of illegal drugs due to the government’s merciless campaign, criminals have switched to kidnapping instead. He added that in three weeks there had been six kidnappings in Binondo, Manila, home to a sizeable Filipino-Chinese community. He claimed that 800,000 drug users had surrendered and the number could reach one million by the end of the year. On 7 November, the Filipino-Chinese community confirmed there had been at least six kidnapping for ransom incidents in Manila this year. Teresita Ang See, founder of the Movement for Restoration of Peace and Order, said kidnappers target Chinese victims because they don’t file complaints and pay the usual ransom demand of P5 million (USD106,750). On 8 November, Senior Superintendent Manolo Ozaeta, chief of the Philippine National Police Anti-Kidnapping Group (PNP-AKG), confirmed that six kidnappings had been recorded in Binondo in the last three weeks. Two of the victims had already been released but the victims in the four other incidents had not been reported to the PNP-AKG. He added that kidnapping victims are usually Chinese businessmen and ransom demands range from P5 million (USD106,750) to P20 million (USD427,000). He also said that there had been 22 reported cases of kidnapping nationwide involving 32 victims since January. Of these cases, eight had occurred in the National Capital Region involving eight victims; one in the Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR) involving one victim; one in Region 1 involving one victim; four in Region 3 involving five victims; two in Region 9 involving six victims; and three in Region 10 involving six victims.

6 November A village chief, Fauzia Abdullah, chairperson of Barangay Niyog Sangahan, Talpao town, was arrested by the Sulu Police and Joint Task Force Sulu (JTFS) on suspicion of being involved in the kidnapping of Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipina Marites Flores, from a resort on Samal Island on 21 September 2015. The police said that Abdullah was reportedly providing sanctuary, information and food to the Abu Sayyaf. They added she was often involved in managing and decision making within the group.

7 November In a telephone call to the Inquirer, Muammar Askali, alias Abu Ramie, a self-proclaimed spokesperson of the Abu Sayyaf, said the group had snatched two German tourists in Tawi-Tawi and were holding a 70 year old German national. He added: “Unfortunately, the other one died. She tried to shoot us, so we shot her. She died”. He allowed the victim to speak to the Inquirer. The man introduced himself as Juergen Kantner, 70, and his female companion as his girlfriend, Sabine Merz. He said they were kidnapped at gunpoint from the yacht, Rockall, at Tanjung Pisut in Tawi-Tawi, and added: “Pirates took our boat and they took us. We ask help from the embassy to help us”. The couple were sailing on a private yacht when attacked. A military spokesman said that villagers had found the yacht with the body of a naked woman with gunshot wounds and a shotgun beside her, that matched the description of Ms. Merz from her passport, on board. A German yachting website said this was the second kidnapping the couple had experienced. In 2008, they were seized off the coast of Yemen and held in Somalia for 52 days before being released after a ransom, said to be six figures, was paid. According to the report, Kantner returned to Somalia in May 2009 to retrieve the yacht, Rockall, to sail to Asia. He is quoted as saying at the time: “My boat is my life and I don’t want to lose her, nothing more. I don’t care about pirates and governments. Why should I return to Germany where I have nobody? After 32 years on my boat, I have lost all contact with them”.

On 22 November, it was reported that ASG sub-commander, Alhabsi Misaya, made a ransom demand of P500 million (USD10.67 million) through text messages alongside releasing the latest images of Juergen Kantner. The messages did not carry any threats against the victim or deadline for the payment of the ransom. However, a spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command said that they had not received any communications about the ransom yet, but if ASG were demanding that amount it was “impossible and incredibly big”. He added that the photograph was released late last week but “we have doubt he is still alive because in the picture it showed how he was tied”. ASG also briefly posted a video on Facebook showing the victim pleading for help and is heard saying: “I need your help from the Philippine government and German government to bring P500,000 (USD10,675)”. The voice of Abu Ramie can be heard in the background telling the victim to speak and quickly correcting the ransom amount to P5 million. He then addresses the German government saying: “We hold your citizen captive and it is [permitted in Islam to take his blood and life”. He went on to say that ASG would call local and foreign news organisations to announce the deadline for the ransom. The commander of Western Mindanao Command said it was not possible to pinpoint which ASG faction was holding the victim. He added that a number of factions, including Alhabsi Misaya and Muammar Askali, have asked for a ransom payment.

11 November About ten armed suspected Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) militants attacked the MV Royal 16, a Vietnamese cargo ship, off southern Basilan island and kidnapped the captain and five crew members. The militants then fled with their victims in a speedboat according to crewmen from another ship, MV Lorcon Iloilo, who witnessed the attack. After the attack, the ship anchored at Zamboanga port with the remaining 13 crew members on board. MV Royal 16 was sailing from Hai Phong, Vietnam, to Davao City with a cargo of cement.

16 November Western Mindanao Command released a statement in which it said that Elmer Ybanez Romoc, an employee of the Payao Municipal Treasurer’s Office in Payao, Zamboanga Sibugay, had been released by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) on Sulu Island. Elmer Romoc, his wife, Nora, and 8 year old son, Ricson, were kidnapped on 5 August 2016 from their home in Barangay Kulisap, Payao, Zamboanga Sibugay province, while they were eating dinner. Nora was released on 23 August. Angelina Romoc, Nora’s sister in law, said that the family had paid a ransom but she was not sure of the amount. Ricson is still being held by ASG.

20 November According to a report from the ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre, the Japanese bulk carrier Kumai Shagang was attacked by pirates or militants in the Sulu Sea north of Tawi-Tawi Island. The vessel took evasive action through manoeuvring and the pirates withdrew. The vessel continued its voyage from Port Hedland, Australia, to Qingdao, China. The ReCAAP ISC expressed deep concern about piracy incidents in the Sulu-Celebes Sea and eastern Sabah region. Since March 2016, there have been nine actual incidents and two attempted incidents. Most of the incidents have been claimed by the Abu Sayyaf Group with 44 crew members being abducted and 11 crew members are still in captivity.

26 November President Rodrigo Duterte appealed to Abu Sayyaf rebels to end their campaign of piracy and kidnapping and start direct talks with him. He was offering an olive branch to the group he previously vowed to destroy. Only a few months ago, he said there could be no peaceful solution for dealing with Abu Sayyaf.

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