Tow of Hijacked Tugboat Found Off Malaysia
The barge Anand 12, the tow of a tugboat hijacked by Islamist terrorists on March 26, was found Monday off of Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia. The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency believes that it drifted over the boundary into Malaysian waters. No one was found aboard.
It was towed into Lahad Datu, and Malaysian authorities APKMM intend to subject it to a week-long forensic investigation. The barge’s owner and operator, PT Patria Maritime Lines, has not confirmed rumors that it is preparing a ransom payment.
The tug Brahma 12 and the barge Anand 12 were hijacked by members of terrorist organization Abu Sayyaf in Philippine waters late last month, and the attackers abducted her crew of 10. They have reportedly demanded a ransom of $1.3 million.
The tug hijacking was one of two within a week near the intersection of the Sulu Sea and Celebes Sea. The second, the April 1 attack on the tug Massive off Litigan Island, Sabah, ended in the abduction of four Malaysian crewmembers and the release of five others. Abu Sayyaf is suspected in the second attack as well. The area is at the intersection of Philippine, Indonesian and Malaysian waters, and the three countries are cooperating in their search for the attackers and hostages.
The region between Tawi-Tawi, Philippines and Sandakan, Malaysia has been a hotspot of Abu Sayyaf kidnappings in recent years. Early this month, the group posted a video of three foreign hostages, two Canadians and one Norwegian, who are being held for ransoms totalling to $60 million.
Abu Sayyaf has links to Al Qaeda but has also pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS). Its attacks have included previous strikes on maritime targets - notably the explosions aboard the missionary ship Doulous in 1991 and the passenger vessel Superferry 14 in 2004. The latter attack killed over 100 people.