FOUR Malaysian sailors were abducted by armed men suspected to be members of the Abu Sayyaf Group off Sabah’s Semporna district and fled towards 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. They reported the attack to Malaysian authorities.
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 ransom.
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 Governor Totoh Tan, chairman of the Provincial Peace and Order Council, and Vice Governor Sakur Tan convened the special action committee and met with representatives of various law enforcement agencies, the police and military authorities and town mayors of Jolo, Talipao, Indanan, Pata, Panamao, Kalinggalan Caluang to tackle the reported kidnappings and other security concerns.
Pirates and other criminal gangs are also actively operating in Tawi-Tawi, one of five provinces under the restive Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
In February 2012, Abu Sayyaf rebels under sub-leader Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan and Moro National Liberation Front members kidnapped 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 escaped in December 2014 after he allegedly killed one of his guards. The fate of Horn is still unknown.
The Abu Sayyaf is still holding several other foreigners in the Muslim region.