6 Viet sailors seized near Abu Sayyaf stronghold
Gunmen abducted six Vietnamese crewmen of a Vietnamese bulk carrier on Friday in waters off Basilan, a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf group, which kidnapped an elderly German sailor recently, the Philippine Coast Guard said.
Two crew members, one of whom was wounded, escaped and were rescued by a local cargo ship, authorities said.
“Sea and naval assets (were) already deployed to search and rescue the said kidnap victims,” said regional military spokesperson Maj. Filemon Tan.
Cmdr. Jerome Cayabyab, of the Zamboanga City Coast Guard station, said the crewman who was shot was evacuated to a local hospital.
He said the fate of the six captives was uncertain after they were transferred to smaller, faster boats. It was the second kidnapping incident in Mindanao in a week.
The abduction brings to at least eight the number of people seized from vessels in the region over the past week, raising fears authorities are unable to control the worsening piracy problem.
The cargo vessel bound for Davao City was sailing less than 20 km from Basilan when it was attacked.
An initial report reaching the Coast Guard station in Zamboanga City said the ship was in distress in the vicinity of Sibago Island. Ten armed men allegedly boarded the vessel and abducted its captain and five crew members, Coast Guard spokesman Cmdr. Armand Balilo said.
The latest attack on commercial shipping in the south occurred just hours after President Duterte and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak agreed to step up maritime cooperation in their borders to stop piracy.
The Philippines has agreed to allow Malaysian and Indonesian maritime forces to pursue kidnappers into its waters to contain the threat, Najib said on Thursday.
Abu Sayyaf rebels have since March been intercepting slow-moving tug boats towing coal barges in waters near the borders of Malaysia and the Philippines, taking captive more than a dozen Indonesian and Malaysian sailors.
On the weekend an Abu Sayyaf commander claimed responsibility for abducting a 70-year-old German sailor and murdering his wife.
In what maritime experts described as a landmark incident, the captain of a South Korean cargo ship and a Filipino crewman were abducted, the first such attack on a large merchant vessel.
Abu Sayyaf militants earlier this year beheaded two Canadian hostages after demands for millions of dollars were not met. Most of the Indonesian and Malaysian sailors were released after ransoms were reportedly paid.
However two more Indonesian sailors were abducted on Nov. 5.
The Abu Sayyaf is a loose network of militants formed in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaida network. It has earned millions of dollars from kidnappings-for-ransom.—WITH REPORTS FROM JULIE M. AURELIO, AFP
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.