Three Indonesians have been kidnapped by armed men off an area in Malaysia where militants from the Abu Sayyaf Group have been blamed for repeated kidnappings.
Malaysian marine police chief Abdul Rahim Abdullah confirmed the kidnapping. “It happened close to midnight yesterday. The three were crew in a fishing trawler,” he said.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines is verifying if the abduction was perpetrated by the Abu Sayyaf.
“Bine-verify pa namin yung balita. Hindi pa namin namo-monitor kaya ayaw ko munang magsalita gawa ng wala pang confirmation (We are still verifying the news. We have yet to monitor so I would not talk about it, because there is no confirmation yet),” Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr., AFP spokesman, said when asked if the ASG was responsible for the abduction.
The incident happened off Lahad Datu in Malaysia’s eastern Sabah state on Borneo island, which is just a short boat ride away from the southern Philippines.
Earlier this year the Abu Sayyaf beheaded two Canadian tourists who had been kidnapped and a Malaysian man was beheaded last year.
Seven Indonesian sailors were kidnapped at gunpoint in June.
Also this year, the group kidnapped 14 Indonesian sailors, holding them in their stronghold in the southern Philippines. They were later freed but there was no information on whether a ransom was paid.
The Abu Sayyaf is a loose network of a few hundred Islamist militants, formed in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network, that has earned millions of dollars from kidnappings-for-ransom.
Although its leaders have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, analysts say they are mainly focused on lucrative kidnappings.
AFP AND FERNAN MARASIGAN