Indonesian kidnappers release Briton

A British energy worker kidnapped in the restive Indonesian province of Aceh has been released unharmed after just one day in captivity, embassy and police officials said on Thursday.

  • Published: 13/06/2013 at 12:49 PM
  • Newspaper section: breakingnews

This photo, released by the Head of Public Relations of Aceh regional police shows British energy worker Malcolm Primrose (C) meeting his wife (in yellow dress), on June 13, 2013, following his released after being taken captive by a group of armed men two days earlier, in Banda Aceh.

Malcolm Primrose was abducted on Tuesday by a group of armed men who stopped his car as he was being driven to a work site in Lubuk Pempeng, a village in East Aceh district, at around 11:00 am (0400 GMT).

The kidnappers tied up his Indonesian driver before taking Primrose away in their car.

Primrose, in his early 60s, phoned his Indonesian wife on Wednesday evening to convey a ransom demand from his captors, provincial police spokesman Gustav Leo told AFP.

They initially demanded one billion rupiah ($100,000) but in a later conversation with his wife raised the figure to five billion, according to East Aceh district police chief Muhajir, who goes by one name.

The kidnappers then dropped the figure to 250 million rupiah but when their demands were not met immediately, they quickly gave up.

"They just got fed up and released him without ransom" late on Wednesday, said Muhajir.

Leo said Primrose was freed in the middle of a palm oil plantation in the Perlak area of East Aceh.

"Police found him this morning in a good condition. He was unharmed."

A spokesman for the British embassy in Jakarta said: "We are delighted to confirm that Malcolm Primrose has been released. Embassy officials are with Mr Primrose and are providing consular assistance."

Muhajir said he had picked up the Briton after he was discovered alone at a security checkpoint in the plantation and security forces were still hunting for the kidnappers.

Primrose had been working as a sub-contractor for a subsidiary of Indonesian oil and gas company Medco Energi Internasional. A company spokesman also confirmed his release.

Authorities had launched a massive search for Primrose, with more than 150 police and soldiers deployed.

He had been working on a drilling project to explore for gas in the jungles of resource-rich Aceh and Tuesday was meant to be his last day in the province, according to a source familiar with the case.

Muhajir said he suspected the kidnappers were former fighters from Aceh's three-decade separatist struggle.

The conflict ended in 2005, but observers have long warned that weapons left over from the fighting could pose a threat in the area.

Keith Loveard, a risk analyst with Jakarta-based Concord Consulting, said he regarded the kidnapping as "one-off" likely carried out by former members of the Free Aceh Movement (GAM), the group that fought against the government.

"What is driving this is that you have these former GAM combatants who have not got much to do with themselves," he told AFP.

Such individuals were likely short of money but had easy access to weapons, he said. "It all comes down to economics -- how you put food on the table for your family."

There have been previous kidnappings in Aceh -- in 2008 five Chinese nationals were held hostage for two days. But in general abductions are rare in Indonesia.

The 2005 peace deal that ended the separatist conflict in Aceh granted the province broad autonomy, allowing it to become the only province to implement strict Islamic laws.

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