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ZAMBOANGA CITY – Suspected Abu Sayyaf militants have tried, but failed to abduct crew members of a Malaysian tugboat while sailing near the southern Philippine province of Tawi-Tawi, media reports said Sunday.

Malaysian’s The Star Online reported that at least 10 gunmen were involved in the failed abduction after crew members locked themselves in a room. It said the armed men, believed from the Southern Philippines, managed to sneak into Sabah and boarded the tug boat on Friday evening.

Crew members quickly radioed for help and members of the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) who were patrolling the waters near Lahad Datu’s Tambisan area responded immediately and forced the gunmen to escape.

The report also quoted Esscom commander Datuk Hazani Ghazali as saying the crew were ferrying palm oil from Felda Sabahat in Tengku and on their way to Kuantan when the gunmen came alongside their boat in Tambisan waters near the southern Philippines’ Tawi-Tawi chain of islands.

Hazani, it added, reminded all operators of vessels in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone to always remain on high alert and update them on their location to enable authorities to respond quickly in the event of any emergency or criminal activity.

He also said all vessels must keep their Automated Identification System switched on and report their travel schedule, and use their distress call in the event of any incidents. “Esscom will not compromise on security and will take continuous efforts to monitor and tighten security in the area particularly in the hotspots,” he said.

Filipino authorities have not release any information on the foiled abduction, but military officials have previously said that security is tight in the border to prevent Abu Sayyaf kidnappings inside Sabah or in the waters of Tawi-Tawi which is frequented by cargo boats. The Abu Sayyaf  is being blamed for attacks and ransom kidnappings of sailors in the area and is still holding several foreigners in the restive region. (Mindanao Examiner)


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