Three Kidnapped by Gunman in Malaysia
Three Filipino crew members on board a Malaysian fishing boat were kidnapped by gunmen in waters near Pulau Pom Pom, Sabah, in Malaysia early on Monday.
The owner of the vessel reported that three crew members, including the captain and a mechanic were kidnapped. The attackers were armed with M-16 assault rifles and are believed to be associated with the Abu Sayyaf.
Malaysian security forces have been on full alert for people fleeing southern Philippines after its government launched a full scale offensive against the Abu Sayyaf militant group and its affiliates in Sulu.
In August, two crew members of the tug Charles, which was boarded by Abu Sayyaf members in late June, managed to escape. The group abducted seven seafarers and let another six go. The attack was part of a months-long string of Abu Sayyaf tug hijackings off of Sabah, Malaysia, near the maritime boundary with the Philippines.
In July, a group linked to Abu Sayyaf kidnapped five crew members from a tug found abandoned off of Sabah.
Abu Sayyaf has kidnapped the crews of multiple tugboats this year; many slow-moving tugs hauling coal barges pass through the strait between the Abu Sayyaf stronghold of Tawi-Tawi and the Malaysian state of Sabah, the southern entrance to the Sulu Sea.
In April, Indonesian officials suggested that the shipments would be suspended, but the nation’s coal mining industry is heavily opposed to an export ban and insiders suggest that the prohibition has not had an effect.
The Sulu Archipelago has been the home base of the Abu Sayyaf Group for decades, especially the larger islands of Sulu, Jolo, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi. Abu Sayyaf has built a reputation for killing prisoners when ransoms go unpaid.