MANILA, June 26 (Xinhua) -- A Philippine military spokesman on Sunday confirmed the kidnapping of seven Indonesian sailors, saying the new batch of victims are probably being held somewhere in Sulu province.
Quoting a statement issued by the Western Mindanao Command, Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the seven Indonesian sailors were kidnapped "on the high seas of Indonesia on or about June 22 at around 11 a.m.."
He said the military in the region "is now assessing the situation and will plan for the best course of action to address the given situation."
Padilla gave no other details of the fresh abductions that prompted Jakarta to halt its coal shipment to the Philippines unless the seven kidnapped Indonesian sailors are secured.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told reporters Friday that "the moratorium on coal exports to the Philippines will be extended until there is a guarantee for security from the Philippine government." Indonesia supplies 70 percent of the Philippines' coal import needs.
The notorious gang Abu Sayyaf Group has not claimed responsibility for the latest hostage-taking.
Last March and April, at least 14 Indonesian sailors were abducted in two separate attacks, according to the Philippine military. They were all freed in May.
The Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia have recently agreed to intensify their security operations in Sulu Sea where the Abu Sayyaf militants are operating. This month the three agreed to designate a transit corridor for commercial vessels crossing their water borders.