Seven Indonesian sailors have been abducted at sea in the southern Philippines, the government in Jakarta said Friday, the latest in a recent string of abductions in the waters between the two countries.
Indonesian officials said 13 sailors were on a tugboat that had been carrying a coal barge in the Sulu Sea on Monday when it was hijacked by armed groups.
Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi said the government will do "everything possible to free these hostages." He added, "the safety of these seven Indonesian citizens is our priority."
Officials in Jakarta said they could not confirm whether a ransom demand had been made, or whether the captors were members of the southern Philippine-based militant group Abu Sayyaf.
Abu Sayyaf began as an insurgent group calling for a separate Muslim state, receiving seed money from al-Qaida in the 1990s.
The group has since resorted to kidnapping foreign tourists and holding them for ransom as authorities intensified operations against terror groups following the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States.
Abu Sayyaf released 10 Indonesian sailors last month who had been held captive since March.
The group beheaded Canadian national John Ridsel last month after a $6.5 million ransom for him was not received.