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Sea chaplains: We're supporting hostages freed in the Philippines

Wed 11 May 2016
By Alex Williams

Ten Indonesian sailors held captive by terrorists in the Philippines for five weeks are being supported by chaplains following their release.

The seafarers were released on May 1 after being kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf, a militant group trying to create an independent Islamic state in the southern Philippines areas of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago group of islands.

The Sailors' Society says it's staff based in the Indonesian port of Banjarmasin have offered the group counselling and they had been supporting relatives, prior to their release.

Chaplain at the international maritime charity, Muhartono Tito, said: "[The families] were incredibly worried about the safety of their loved ones.

"When news broke that the terrorists had freed the men, I called their family members who were incredibly grateful. They were incredibly relieved and held a prayer service to give thanks."

The ten sailors are reportedly in good physical health, despite spending more than a month in captivity.

One of the freed seafarers said: "We were very stressed because they frequently threatened to slit our throats."

Sailors' Society

Muhartono (pictured above) added: "Although they are all home safely, it is a real possibility that both the seafarers and their families will be suffering from stress after this traumatic incident.

"I have offered counselling and have asked the ship owner to give the seafarers a grace of period of a month to recover."

The group's release comes a week after Abu Sayyaf beheaded Canadian businessman John Ridsdel and it's believed the group is still holding at least 11 people hostage.

The Sailors' Society reports this incident in the Philippines highlights an upsurge of kidnappings for ransom at sea, with the Malacca Strait between Indonesia and Malaysia, and Gulf of Guinea remaining piracy hotspots.

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