Southeast Asian nations to patrol piracy-prone waters

MANILA (AFP) – The Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia will launch joint patrols in piracy-plagued waters, Manila’s Defence Secretary said Thursday, after a wave of attacks that saw extremist militants kidnapping and murdering foreigners.

The Abu Sayyaf, a kidnap-for-ransom network that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, has been kidnapping sailors on fishing vessels and cargo barges including an elderly German whom it beheaded last month after ransom demands were not met.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he and his counterparts from Malaysia and Indonesia had agreed to patrol a sea lane where commercial vessels could pass with protection from the three nations’ navies.

“We are inaugurating, sometime in April or May, a joint patrol of the three nations in that area,” Lorenzana said in a news conference.

“(Vessels) cannot stray beyond that lane so that we can help protect them.”

The waters between the three nations have become increasingly dangerous in recent years, with maritime officials warning of a “Somalia-type” situation if the attacks are not addressed.

In February, the Abu Sayyaf murdered Jurgen Kantner, 70, five months after his yacht was found drifting off the southern Philippines with the body of his female companion, Sabine Merz, who had been shot.