Freed Benghazi hostages return home: Retno Marsudi

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Six Indonesian seafarers, held hostage in Benghazi, Libya, were released and handed over to their families in their hometowns on Monday. Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi handed over the seafarers to their families at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Jakarta, on Monday.

“I hereby hand over our friends, the six Indonesian seafarers, to their families,” Minister Marsudi noted.

The six Indonesians, the crew members of a Maltese-flagged fishing vessel, Salvatur VI, were kidnapped by a militant group of Benghazi in the Benghazi waters, some 72 miles from the Libyan coast on September 23, 2017. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs received a report of the kidnapping five days after the incident occurred.

Communication to free the hostages had been established, including with the ship’s owner, since the incident took place. “The process of releasing the hostages was not easy due to the potentially volatile political situation engulfing Benghazi and Tripoli,” Marsudi remarked.

The government had tasked a joint team of the Indonesian Citizens Protection Directorate, National Intelligence Agency, and Indonesian Embassy in Tripoli to work on freeing the hostages. Through diplomacy approaches, on Mar 27, the six Indonesian seafarers were released at an abandoned fish port in Benghazi.

“An intensive approach had been adopted for the last six months by emphasizing that Indonesia is a close friend of Libya, and that Indonesia does not take sides in the conflict of Libya,” Director of the Indonesian Citizens Protection of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Lalu Muhammad Iqbal affirmed.

Moreover, Indonesia, along with Libya, had mediated the peace process in South Philippines in 1996. Such diplomatic approaches were being undertaken during the liberation period.

The six Indonesian seafarers comprised Ronny William from Jakarta and Joko Riadi from Blitar, East Java, as well as and Hariyanto, Saefudin, Mohamad Abudi, and Waskita Idi Patria, who were the residents of Tegal, Central Java.

When the kidnapping occurred, the militant group laid siege on the Maltese-flagged vessel and seized its navigation and communication devices as well as the private belongings of the crew.

The motive behind the kidnapping was unclear, but it was believed to be for a political reason since the militant group of Benghazi did not have good relations with Malta.

The Indonesian Embassy in Tripoli had been unsuccessful in communicating with the Indonesian seafarers until December.

Once communication was established, the team was able to work towards releasing the hostage.

“We thank you all that we could reunite with our families,” Ronny William, one of the Indonesian seafarers, stated.

Since the past six months, William and the five other seafarers had to survive in harsh conditions in the conflict-torn North African country.

Since being held hostage at the port, the six had also witnessed how the armed conflict was taking place in the nearby cities.

“Jet fighters were passing by for it was near about one or two kilometers from our place. Stray bullets were also often,” William recalled.

In addition to the six Indonesians seafarers, the ship’s captain, an Italian national, was kidnapped but then had been released earlier due to a health problem, William said.

The Indonesian government has been coordinating with the ship’s owner and the employer to ensure that the rights of the Indonesian seafarers are met. 

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