PortandTerminal.com, January 19, 2020
MANILA – The Philippine military on Sunday said it has launched search and rescue operations for five Indonesian fishermen kidnapped by militants belonging to the Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf group in Malaysian waters last week.
Abu Sayyaf, which has its roots in separatism, is notorious for banditry and piracy, including beheading some captives if no ransom is paid.
Eight Indonesians were abducted in Sabah on Thursday. Three were released, while the remaining five were probably brought by their captors to the southern Philippine province of Sulu, said Lieutenant General Cirilito Sobejana, chief of the military’s Western Mindanao Command.
The Philippine Coast Guard reported that six gunmen dressed in black suits with masks used a grey speedboat with twin-engine (40 HP) abducted the eight crew from a Malaysia-registered fishing trawler (with marking SSK 00543).
The fishing trawler was found abandoned and with no crew on board on 17
January 2020 at about 1500 hrs at approximately 4.24 nm off Pulau Tambisan, Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia.
On 18 January 2020, the Malaysian authorities reported that they had recovered three of the eight missing crew in the vicinity of Lahad Datu, Sabah.
Since March 2016, a spate of kidnap-for-ransom incidents has been reported in this region of the Philippines.
The attacks are attributed mainly to the Abu Sayyaf militant group operating out of the southern Philippines, although some appear to be criminal groups.
In 2017, Abu Sayaf militants beheaded a German Jurgen Kantner after talks for his release in exchange for ransom collapsed. Mr Kantner was abducted by Abu Sayaf while he and his wife were cruising a dangerous area of the Philippines. Ms Merz was killed, purportedly when she tried to fight back with a shotgun.
In this latest incident, Philippine authorities were conducting maritime patrols in the area, particularly near the Sulade island (which was believed to be the staging area of the perpetrators). The Philippine and Malaysia authorities are stepping up their patrol efforts, conducting pursuit operations and intensifying its military operation to locate the five abducted Indonesian crew.
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