ZAMBOANGA CITY: Pirates attacked a group of fishermen off Zamboanga City and killed at least eight of them, while five others survived.
Sangali village chieftain Daud Bakil said the attack occurred late Monday near Siromon Island. The attack was reported early Tuesday after two of the survivors managed to flee and return to Sangali to report the incident.
The gunmen asked the fishermen if they were Muslims, and shot them when they failed to recite a prayer. The bodies of the fishermen were recovered on their boat. Their hands were all tied with nylon rope.
Bakil said the pirates were collecting money from fishermen in the area. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but security at sea is a serious problem in the region. There was no statement from the military on the attack.
Just recently, Abu Sayyaf rebels tried, but failed, to hijack a Filipino cargo ship while sailing off Basilan near Zamboanga City. The gunmen, aboard two speedboats, attacked the vessel Ocean Kingdom off Sibago Island. The ship, which was manned by over two dozen sailors, was heading to Davao City to deliver cargo when it came under fire. It managed to escape.
It was the second cargo ship attacked by rebels off Basilan since November last year. Abu Sayyaf fighters also hijacked a Vietnamese cargo ship and seized six crewmen, including its captain, in a daring attack last November 11 that left one sailor wounded.
The ship, MV Royal 16, was sailing off the province when 10 gunmen on a speedboat intercepted it off Sibago Island, boarded the vessel and abducted the crewmen. Another Filipino cargo ship, the MV Lorcon Iloilo that was passing near Basilan, rescued the wounded sailor, provided first aid and evacuated him to a hospital in Zamboanga City.
The Abu Sayyaf is holding over a dozen Malaysian and Indonesian sailors in the restive region.
Maritime kidnappings up
The number of maritime kidnappings hit a 10-year high in 2016, with waters off the southern Philippines becoming increasingly dangerous, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said Tuesday.
While the overall number of pirate attacks has declined in recent years, the IMB said 62 people worldwide were kidnapped for ransom at sea last year compared to only 19 in 2015 and nine in 2014.
“The kidnapping of crew from ocean-going merchant vessels in the Sulu Sea and their transfer to the southern Philippines represents a notable escalation in attacks,” the IMB said in a report.
It urged shipowners to avoid the Sulu Sea, which lies between eastern Malaysia and the Philippines, by routing ships to the west of Borneo island.
In a string of incidents in the Sea last year, groups of armed men — said to be either from or linked to the Abu Sayyaf — ambushed ships and seized crew for ransom.
Noel Choong, head of the IMB’s Kuala Lumpur-based Piracy Reporting Center, said groups linked to militants were carrying out the kidnappings — particularly off West Africa and in the Sulu Sea.
Despite the rise in kidnappings, the number of overall pirate attacks continued to fall due to better policing and ships taking more precautions.
A total of 191 cases of piracy on the high seas were recorded in 2016 compared to 246 in 2015.
World piracy has been on the decline since 2012 after international naval patrols were launched off East Africa in response to a spate of violent assaults by Somali-based pirates and others.