Tug Hijacked by Terrorists in Sulu Sea
The Islamist terrorist group Abu Sayyaf has hijacked an unnamed tugboat in the Philippines and is holding her ten Indonesian crew as hostages, Philippine military sources say.
The Taiwanese tugboat was under way from Jakarta to Manila when she was was hijacked not far from the border with Malaysia.
The crew got off a distress call to the owner of the tug. The Manila Bulletin suggests that she was seized by Abu Sayyaf off of Tawi-Tawi, and reportedly recovered by authorities off of Languyan Island, Philippines. The Philippine military are on alert for signs of the kidnapped crew.
The separatists have demanding an unspecified ransom from the vessel's owners, regional media sources report.
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. The militants have threatened to kill the Western hostages if ransoms are not paid by April.
Abu Sayyaf has links to Al Qaeda but has also pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS). Kidnapping is one of its primary methods of fundraising, but it also engages in extortion and drug trafficking to fuel its activities. Its attacks have included assassinations, drive-by shootings and strikes on maritime targets - notably the explosions aboard the missionary ship Doulous in 1991 and the passenger vessel Superferry 14 in 2004. The latter bomb attack killed over 100 people.
Separately, on Saturday, the Philippine Western Mindanao Command reported the death of the Abu Sayyaf leader Eric Ajibon in heavy fighting with military forces on Basilan. 13 others were wounded, including seven soldiers and allied milia hit by grenade shrapnel.