SULU – Three Indonesian fishing crew members were reported kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf gunmen off Sabah near the Philippine border and had been taken to the southern Filipino province of Sulu, Malaysia media said Sunday.
It said the trio was working for a fishing company in Sandakan and had been seized by 7 gunmen on the night of December 5 near Pegasus Reef – an area where four armed men also attacked a tugboat and wounded an Indonesian crew two days later in a failed abduction.
Sabah police recovered the trawler of the missing Indonesian crewmen with its engine still running. “They were abducted on Wednesday. One of the victims apparently made contact with a family member late Thursday night. The sources also disclosed that the family member was urged to seek the assistance of the Indonesian consulate,” the Star reported.
It said, citing intelligence sources, that the gunmen were led by Abu Sayyaf commanders Al Mujir Yadah and Hajan Sawadjaan, who teamed up with another militant commander, Indang Susukan. The group was tagged as behind the spate of ransom kidnappings in the waters of Sabah and the recent attack on tugboat off Pegasus Reef.
The names of the abducted Indonesians were not made public by the Star Online, but said their ages are between 19 and 40.
The Star Online, quoting unidentified intelligence sources, said three fishermen had been taken by their abductors to Pata Island and later transferred them to Panamao town.
Panamao is near Luuk town where Abu Sayyaf had freed their Indonesian hostages several times in the past. Just December 6, the militants freed the 35-year old Usman Yusuf in Luuk’s Bual village.
Yusuf was quickly brought to a military base in the capital town of Jolo after soldiers recovered him in Bual village. He was kidnapped along with another Indonesian man Samsul Saguni, 40, in September 11 off Gaya Island in Sabah’s Semporna town and brought to Sulu, one of 5 provinces under the Muslim autonomous region. Saguni’s fate remains unknown.
The release of Yusuf came after the Chief of the Indonesian Consul-General’s Office in Sabah, Sulistijo Djati Ismojo, appealed to Malaysia to resolve the kidnapping of its citizens.
It wasunknown whether ransom had been paid to the kidnappers in exchange for Yusuf’sr elease. But in September, the Abu Sayyaf had previously released other kidnapped Indonesian hostages to Nur Misuari, chieftain of the former rebel group Moro National Liberation Front, and his wife Tarhata; and a former Indonesian army general Kivlan Zein who was believed to have negotiated for the victims’freedom.
In September14 this year, the militant group, whose leaders pledged allegiance to theIslamic State, also released to Misuari 3 other Indonesian hostages Hamdam Salim, Subandi Sattuh and Sudarlan Samansung, who were kidnapped at sea off Sabah in January.
In August 2016, civilians recovered 2 of seven Indonesian sailors Ismail and Mohamad Soyfan in the same village of Bual. The duo was part of a crew of tugboat Charles kidnapped in June of the same year after militants on speedboats intercepted the vessel while heading to Samarinda in East Kalimantan following a trip from the Philippines.
The remaining hostages – Ferry Arifin, the skipper; M. Mahbrur Dahri, Edi Suryono, M.Nasir, and Robin Piter were eventually freed by the Abu Sayyaf to Misuari on October 2, 2016.
There was no immediate reports from the Philippine military on the latest abductions. But it recently said that the Abu Sayyaf is still holding at least three more foreigners and three Filipinos in southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner)
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