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Vietnamese cargo ship attacked off Tawi-Tawi; one killed, 6 abducted

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Suspected Abu Sayyaf rebels hijacked a cargo ship off the southern Philippine province of Tawi-Tawi and abducted 6 Vietnamese sailors and killed one crew member before escaping to the open sea, ther military said Monday.

It said security forces also recovered the body of the slain sailor and rescued 10 other Vietnamese crewmen of MV Giang Hai and brought them to the nearest dock in Taganak Island. “Local fishermen reported Monday morning that they sighted a vessel at the vicinity of Turtle Island which appears to have been sea-jacked. Elements of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 8 proceeded to the area to respond and found the crewmen on board,” a military report said. 

An interpreter interviewed the Vietnamese sailors, but details of this were not immediately available, although security forces in the area have been alerted on the abductions. No individual or group claimed responsibility for the latest hijacking, but military units suspect the Abu Sayyaf was behind the attack.

The military’s Western Mindanao Command said that one Abu Sayyaf rebel, Al Abdullah, was also killed on Sunday afternoon in a clash with soldiers on Turtle Island. 

It said Abdullah was first interrogated by soldiers after armed men – believed to be Abu Sayyaf rebels – stayed in his house. After investigation, Abdullah was allowed to go home, but returned with an automatic rifle and fired upon the soldiers and a fire fight ensued until he was eventually killed.

The military said it was searching for the armed men who were later identified as Absar, Musub Baudin, and Man Baudi. All remain at large. “This is a big setback on the Abu Sayyaf group as we continue to intensify the conduct of law enforcement operations along with the police and maximize intel monitoring to pre-empt kidnappings within our joint area of operations,” said Major General Carlito Galvez, the regional military commander.

It was unknown whether Abdullah or any of the gunmen participated in the hijacking of the Vietnamese ship.

Just in January, a group of Abu Sayyaf rebels tried, but failed to hijack a Filipino cargo ship while sailing off Basilan province also in southern Philippines. The gunmen, on board two speedboats, attacked the vessel Ocean Kingdom – manned by over 2 dozen sailors – off Sibago Island while heading to Davao City to deliver its cargo.

Security forces, alerted by the attack, rushed to the area and secured the cargo boat owned by Oceanic Shipping Lines. It was the second cargo ship attacked by rebels off Basilan since last year. Abu Sayyaf fighters also hijacked a Vietnamese cargo ship and seized 6 crewmen, including its captain in a daring attack on 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 and boarded the vessel and abducted the crewmen. Another Filipino cargo ship, MV Lorcon Iloilo, passing near Basilan rescued the wounded sailor and provided him first aid.

The Abu Sayyaf is also holding over a dozen Malaysian and Indonesian sailors in the restive region.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who visited Kuala Lumpur last year, has allowed Malaysia to enter the country’s southern border in hot pursuit of Abu Sayyaf rebels and kidnap gangs following the slew of ransom kidnappings in Sabah just near the Muslim province of Tawi-Tawi.

Manila also allowed Indonesia to do the same following the spate of Abu Sayyaf attacks on its tugboats in Sabah and Tawi-Tawi. The Philippines has joint border patrol agreements with both Malaysia and Indonesia. (Mindanao Examiner)

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