ZAMBOANGA CITY: Pirates seized four Malaysian seamen off Sabah’s Semporna district and fled toward Tawi-Tawi province in the Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines, reports said Saturday.
At least eight gunmen on a speedboat intercepted the tugboat MasFive 6 near Ligitan Island late Friday and abducted Wong Hung Song, 44; Wong Teck Pang, 41; Wong Teck Chi, 39; and Johnny Lau Jung Hien, 21 – all from Sarawak, in Sabah.
Five other sailors – two Indonesians and three Burmese – were left behind in the boat and reported the attack on Malaysian authorities. No individual or group claimed responsibility for the latest abductions while Philippine authorities have not released any reports on this.
The tugboat was heading to the coastal town of Tawau, in Sabah, after delivering timber in the Philippines when gunmen raided the vessel.
Just recently, pirates also attacked another tugboat, Brahma 12, off Tawi-Tawi province while sailing back to Sabah and kidnapped 10 Indonesian sailors and demanded $1 million in exchange for their lives.
The kidnappers, believed to be members of the Abu Sayyaf under Alhabsi Misaya, were negotiating with the boat owner Patria Maritime Lines for the safe release of the victims, who are allegedly being held in Sulu province in southern Philippines.
On Saturday, Sulu Gov. Totoh Tan, chairman of the Provincial Peace and Order Council, and Vice-Gov. Sakur Tan convened the special action committee and met with representatives of various law enforcement agencies, the police and military authorities and the town mayors of Jolo, Talipao, Indanan, Pata, Panamao and Kalinggalan Caluang to tackle the reported kidnappings and other security concerns.
The report of the kidnappings first came from Peter Tonsen Barahama, the tugboat’s skipper, after he wrote on his Facebook account that “Tugboat Brahma 12 is being hijacked, all crew are being held hostage by Abu Sayyaf. Pray for our safety and God’s protection.”
Pirates and other criminal gangs are also actively operating in Tawi-Tawi, one of five provinces under the restive Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
In Feb. 2012, Abu Sayyaf rebels under sub-leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan and Moro National Liberation Front (MILF) members kidnapped two European wildlife photographers – Lorenzo Vinciguerra, from Switzerland, and Ewold Horn, 54, from Holland – in the coastal village of Parangan in Panglima Sugala town in Tawi-Tawi.
Vinciguerra had escaped from his guards in December 2014 after he allegedly killed one of his guards – Juhurim Hussien – with a bolo, and soldiers recovered him. The fate of Horn is still unknown, and aside from him, the Abu Sayyaf is still holding several other foreigners in the Muslim region. AL JACINTO