JAKARTA: Two Indonesian fishermen kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf in waters off Sabah, Malaysia more than a year ago have been released by the militant group.
Indonesia's foreign ministry said the men were released on Friday (Jan 19) from where they were held in Sulu, southern Philippines.
The Indonesian consulate general in Davao and the Indonesian embassy in Manila are coordinating with local authorities to facilitate the return of the two Indonesians.
"The two Indonesians are La Utu bin Raali and La Hadi bin La Adi. They were fishermen from Wakatobi, southeast Sulawesi and were kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf from two different fishing boats on Nov 5, 2016 near the waters of Kertam, Sabah, Malaysia," said the Indonesian foreign ministry in a statement on Saturday.
Upon their release, the two fishermen were placed at the Joint Task Force base in Sulu.
They are expected to be flown to Zamboanga by helicopter. From there, they will return to Indonesia after obtaining exit clearance from Philippine immigration authorities.
On Nov 8, 2016, three days after the kidnapping, Indonesian's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi visited Sandakan port in Sabah to meet the wives of the two Indonesian captives and hundreds of other fishermen.
During the visit, she promised that the Indonesian government will spare no effort in securing the release of the two fishermen.
Pirate attacks and armed robbery against ships more than doubled in the Philippines last year compared to 2016.
An annual report by the International Maritime Bureau released recently showed that 22 incidents were recorded in the Philippines in 2017, a jump from 10 in 2016.
These include kidnappings of crew in the southern Philippines, with militants targeting seafarers in the strife-torn region, abducting them and often demanding ransoms for their release.
In June last year, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines launched joint maritime patrols to fight terrorism and transnational crimes in the Sulu Sea.