Abu Sayyaf Silent About Hijacking of Vietnamese Ship
The Armed Forces of the Philippines say that they have not yet confirmed whether the kidnapping of six Vietnamese mariners was perpetrated by the Abu Sayyaf militant group, which has terrorized shipping in the Sulu Sea since early this year.
"It's hard to say if [Abu Sayyaf] are behind it. There is always the possibility that another group might be behind it," said Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, speaking to Manila Bulletin.
No one has stepped forward to claim responsibility for the attack, he said. In most prior kidnappings, Abu Sayyaf has issued a request for ransom payments soon after seizing seafarers.
The abductees included the master, the deck officers, the bosun and an A/B.
The six men went missing in a pirate attack on the Vietnamese bulker Royal 16 on November 11. One crewmember was shot during the hijacking.
Authorities received word of the attack from the crew of a second merchant vessel, who witnessed the Royal 16 in distress.
Separately, four soldiers were injured by an improvised explosive device in Lamitan City, Basilan. The AFP is conducting a large-scale campaign against Abu Sayyaf forces on Basilan and Sulu in an attempt to deny them a shoreside base of operations. As of early November, the Army said that it had killed over 100 Abu Sayyaf fighters in Sulu and Basilan. The military’s casualties to date are about 30 soldiers dead and about 40 wounded.
Malaysia and Indonesia have also entered into the fight against Abu Sayyaf. Last Thursday, the Philippine and Malaysian governments reached a new agreement allowing Malaysian forces to pursue pirates into the Philippines' territorial seas.
Abu Sayyaf is formally allied with the Islamic State, and Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte warned today that any infiltrators from the conflict in the Middle East will be dealt with harshly – and without any consideration of the norms of human rights.
“Once the terrorists of the Middle East are deprived of the land area, the real estate area where they can sleep … they will wander to other places and they will come here and we have to prepare for that,” Duterte said in a speech on Monday. "I will not just simply allow my people to be slaughtered for the sake of human rights . . . forget about human rights."