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ZAMBOANGA CITY – Sabah authorities said it has no confirmation whether the Filipino militant group Abu Sayyaf was behind the disappearance of 5 Malaysian sailors off Lahad Datu town in Sabah near Tawi-Tawi province in southern Philippines.
Malaysia’s The Star Online reported on Wednesday that Sabah Police Commis¬sioner Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun as saying that they do not have any confirmation whether the Abu Sayyaf kidnapped the crew – Abd Rahim Summas, 62, Tayudin Anjut, 45, Fandy Bakran, 26, Mohd Zumadil Rahim, 23 and Mohd Ridzuan Ismail, 32 – of the tugboat Seruduna 3 on July 18.
“We are not discounting the possibility of kidnapping, but we do not have any confirmation at this moment,” Rashid said during a news conference in Lahad Datu.
The report said the empty tugboat was discovered by another vessel passing by the area and that food was prepared inside. The tugboat was set to return to Semporna after its barge delivered a cargo of stones in Sandakan City also in Sabah.
Police said it is not rushing to declare the latest incident a cross-border kidnapping and are looking at all aspects to ascertain the disappearance of crew members, according to the Star Online.
It quoted Rashid as saying that neither the families nor the employer of the missing sailors had received any calls for ransom. It was unknown whether Malaysian pirates with links to Abu Sayyaf were involved in the disappearance of the sailors.
The Abu Sayyaf also seized 7 other Indonesian tugboat crewmen on June 22 in the Sulu Sea near the Philippines border.
The sailors have been identified as Ferry Arifin, the tugboat skipper; 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 following a trip from 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 crewmembers 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. (Mindanao Examiner)

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