Pirates Free Two Indonesian Sailors

KUALA LUMPUR ~ Pirates have freed two Indonesian sailors abducted earlier this month in the Malacca Strait after an undisclosed ransom was paid, an international maritime watchdog said this week.

“Ransom was paid. The victims are now being interviewed by the Indonesian authorities,” Noel Choong, the head of the International Maritime Bureau’s reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur, said.

He did not say who paid or how much was handed over to free the ship’s master and engineer, adding that they were being interviewed in Indonesia following their release on Friday.

The pair set sail from Malaysia but were kidnapped on August 13 by heavily armed pirates who boarded their barge.

The gunmen left six other crew members unharmed but destroyed the barge’s communication system before fleeing.

The kidnapping, the third in the Malacca Strait this year, sparked concerns of a possible increase in pirate attacks. It was the first time since July 2005 that crew members had been kidnapped.

More than 30 percent of world trade and half of the world’s oil shipments pass through the Malacca Strait, which is shared by Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore.

Countries such as Japan reply on the strategic waterway for their oil.

But Malaysian police have warned of a “real and possible” threat that the waterway could become a target for terrorism.

Pirate attacks have been steadily decreasing in the last three years, mostly due to increased patrols by Indonesia, but Choong urged the authorities to boost security further.

“It all depends on the Indonesian authorities. If they do not take immediate steps to boost patrols, we fear attacks and kidnap cases will increase,” he said.

The Malaysian-owned Brantas 25 tug-boat was traveling from the northern state of Penang to the Port of Belawan in Sumatra.

It was not clear whether the pirate attack on the boat happened in Malaysian or Indonesian waters.

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