ZAMBOANGA CITY – Suspected Abu Sayyaf gunmen hijacked a tugboat off the southern Philippine province of Tawi-Tawi near the Sabah border and abducted 4 Indonesian crewmen and shot and wounded another before escaping on a speedboat.
Five other sailors, including the wounded crew member of tugboat Henry, sailed to the Malaysian border where they had been rescued by Malaysian authorities. The latest abduction was the third carried out by the Abu Sayyaf since last month.
The wounded sailor, whose identity was not immediately known, was rushed to Semporna district in Tawau town, and the rest of the crewmen filed their police report in Lahad Datu town, also in Sabah.
The tugboat was heading to Banjarmasin in South Kalimantan in Indonesia from the Philippines when gunmen intercepted them late Friday.
On March 26, Abu Sayyaf gunmen also snatched 10 Indonesian crew of the tugboat Brahma 12 off Languyan town in Tawi-Tawi – one of 5 provinces of the volatile Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao – while heading to Sabah.
The Abu Sayyaf also kidnapped 4 Malaysian crewmen of another tugboat MasFive 6 at sea in Semporma on April 2. The jihadist group also released a photo dated April 8 of the Malaysian hostages Wong Teck Kang, 31, Wong Hung Sing, 34, Wong Teck Chii, 29, and Johnny Lau Jung Hien, 21, all from Sarawak.
The photo, which was uploaded on Facebook, showed the captives squatting and one of them holding a piece of paper with the word “Victor Troy” and the date “April 8, 2016 written on it. They are believed being held by Abu Sayyaf commanders Hatid Hajan Sawajaan and Alhabsi Misaya in southern Philippines.
The latest abduction came despite Malaysia’s closing of the Sabah border, just several hours by boat from Tawi-Tawi province, following the spate of daring kidnappings by the Abu Sayyaf inside its territory.
Philippine authorities have failed miserably to stop the cross-border kidnappings by Abu Sayyaf in the oil-rich state of Sabah. Just recently, two Filipino general were sacked for failing to stop the Abu Sayyaf kidnappings inside Sabah. The Abu Sayyaf had in the past beheaded a Malaysian hostage in southern Philippines and killed a maritime policeman in a raid on a popular resort in Sabah.
Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman said the decades-old barter trade activity in Sandakan and other east coastal towns was to be ceased immediately, according to the Jakarta post, which reported that this was among several measures agreed by the Cabinet during a meeting on April 6 – four days after a group of gunmen on a speedboat intercepted the tugboat MasFive 6 near Ligitan Island off Semporna and abducted its crew Wong Hung Song, 44, Wong Teck Pang, 41, Wong Teck Chi, 39, and Johnny Lau Jung Hien, 21 – all from Sarawak in Sabah.
It said other measures include the immediate halt of transshipment trade of petroleum and gas products in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone spanning 10 districts from Kudat to Tawau. Musa also imposed a maritime curfew from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. in seven coastal districts – from Beluran to Tawau.
Musa also ordered security forces to seize any foreign motorized boats in Sabah waters. He said security forces would also give protection to merchant boats sailing in high-risk areas in Sabah, particularly near the Philippine border.
He also shelved a propose ferry services – to start in May – between Kudat in Sabah and Palawan province in the Philippines, adding, the strict measures reflected Sabah government’s resolve to rid the east coast of the menace posed by kidnap-for-ransom groups based in southern Philippines.
“The state government takes these kidnappings very seriously. The new measures to be taken will ensure this problem can be dealt with effectively,” Musa said.
“We are also studying in-depth prevention and rectification measures to deal with hijacking and kidnapping involving merchant ships in high-risk waters. The security forces are currently looking into how we can provide better security protection for ships in these waters. However its implementation requires cooperation from all ship owners to enable effective coordination,” he added. (Mindanao Examiner)
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