On Sunday evening, pirates attached the frieghter Giang Hai near Tawi-Tawi, Philippines, killing one seafarer and kidnapping seven.
According to the Vietnam Coast Guard, the abductees included the master, chief mate, third mate, second engineer and one oiler. Philippine coast guard and military forces responded to the scene and rescued the Giang Hai's remaining 17 crewmembers, and the Philippine armed forces pursued the attackers.
The Vietnamese-flagged geared bulker Giang Hai is operated by a Da Nang-based shipping firm. AIS data shows that she was under way from Makassar, Indonesia to Iloilo, Philippines at the time of the attack. The Giang Hai is now at Taganak anchorage area, Tawi Tawi, where Philippine law enforcement officials are examining the vessel.
The ReCAAP piracy reporting center said that the pirates destroyed navigation and communication equipment before escaping. ReCAAP noted that this is the second boarding and abduction in the region so far this year. The waters around Tawi-Tawi are notorious for pirate attacks and kidnappings perpetrated by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), a terrorist organization based out of Sulu and Basilan. In November, ReCAAP advised slower-moving merchant vessels to avoid the region altogether if possible.
Abu Sayyaf is believed to be holding over two dozen hostages, most of them merchant mariners; it has released eleven captives since last June, and analysts suggest that ransoms were likely paid to secure their release. The Philippine government does not generally comment on ransoms, but recent payments may represent a significant sum: as a point of reference, group is believed to have taken in $7 million from kidnapping the first half of 2016 alone. The government discourages ransoms on the grounds that the money fuels ASG's arms purchases and recruitment activities.
Abu Sayyaf routinely threatens to kill hostages if it does not receive payment, and it often follows through. Last year, ASG fighters beheaded three captives – John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, both Canadian nationals, and Philippine citizen Patrick Almodovar. Last week, ASG threatened to behead German national Jurgen Kantner unless the German government pays $100,000 to secure his release.