5 Malaysian tugboat crew missing off Sabah

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ZAMBOANGA CITY: Five Malaysian tugboat crew were reported missing and feared kidnapped off Lahad Datu town in Malaysia’s eastern state of Sabah, reports said on Tuesday.

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Sabah Police chief Abdul Rashid Harun, quoted by the Malaysian media, said fishermen spotted on Monday the empty tugboat with its engine still running but no crew were onboard.

The boat was expected to arrive in Lahad Datu town on the same day it was found.

No other details were made available by the Malaysian authorities but the recent disappearance came two weeks after Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits kidnapped three Indonesian crew of a Malaysian trawler in the area.

The Abu Sayyaf also seized seven Indonesian tugboat crew on June 22 in the Sulu Sea near the Philippine border.

The sailors have been identified as Ferry Arifin, the tugboat skipper; and M. Mahbrur Dahri, Edi Suryono, Ismail, M.Nasir, M.Sofyan and Robin Piter.

The boat, owned by PT Rusianto Brothers, was heading to Samarinda in East Kalimantan from a trip to the Philippines when gunmen on speedboats intercepted it.

Indonesian media reported that the boat captain phoned his wife and told her that they were intercepted at sea by gunmen, who introduced themselves as Abu Sayyaf and were demanding 20 million ringgits for their safe release.

The Abu Sayyaf previously kidnapped 14 Indonesian tugboat crew in separate attacks at sea off Sabah and brought them to Sulu province and eventually released through the intercession of the Moro National Liberation Front.

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