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Sea Security Increased Near Indonesia  05/05 06:13

   YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) -- Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines agreed 
Thursday to run coordinated patrols to boost maritime security following the 
kidnappings at sea of Indonesians by suspected Abu Sayyaf militants.

   Foreign ministers and military chiefs of the three countries held talks in 
Indonesia's ancient royal capital city of Yogyakarta, hashing out the details 
of joint patrols to protect shipping in the waters between their border areas.

   Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said the threat from robbery, 
kidnapping and other transnational crime, if not addressed appropriately, can 
undermine the confidence in trade and commerce, which in turn can adversely 
affect the economic activities and welfare of peoples in the surrounding areas.

   She said the area between Zulu islands in southern Philippines and 
Indonesia's Sulawesi island is a strategic economic waterway where over 55 
million metric tons of crude and over 18 million people pass through.

   Abu Sayyaf militants on Sunday freed 10 of 14 Indonesian crewmen who were 
seized at sea in March in the first of three attacks on tugboats that have 
sparked a regional maritime security alarm. In April, the militants beheaded 
Canadian John Ridsdel after failing to get 300 million pesos ($6.3 million) as 
ransom.

   Philippine troops launched an offensive against the Abu Sayyaf after the 
beheading, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has vowed to help the 
Philippines bring the killers to justice.

   "We will undertake a coordinated patrol in the maritime areas of our common 
concern," Marsudi told a news conference after the meeting that attended by her 
counterparts Anifah Aman from Malaysia and Jose Rene D. Almendras from 
Philippines and military chiefs from the three countries.

   "Nationals of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have all been 
victims," she said, "We have to take action to ensure our citizens felt 
protective, keep undertaking their activities in that area."

   A joint declaration the participants issued later expressed "grave concern" 
over the growing security challenges, such as those arising from armed robbery, 
transnational crimes and terrorism in the region.

   It said they agreed to render immediate assistance for the safety of people 
and ships in distress within the area and to intensify cooperation in sharing 
information and intelligence as well as to establish a hotline of communication 
to improve cooperation during emergency and security threats.

   Marsudi said officials of the three countries will meet again to formulate 
operating procedures of the maritime patrols.

   More than a dozen 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.

   Both the United States and the Philippines label Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist 
organization.


(KA)

 
 
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