Sun, Apr 03, 2016 - Page 5 News List

Malaysian ship crew kidnapped: reports

ROUTINE WARNINGS:The militant group Abu Sayyaf operates mostly in southern parts of the Philippines region, abducting tourists and ship crews for ransom

AFP, KUALA LUMPUR

Militants have kidnapped four Malaysians from a ship off the east coast of Sabah state in waters where Abu Sayyaf militants are known to operate, local media reported yesterday.

If the Philippine militant group is confirmed to be behind the kidnapping, it would be their second such hostage-taking in as many weeks and comes amid an increase in such attacks.

Sabah police commissioner Abdul Rashid Harun told Malaysia’s official news agency Bernama that authorities were still investigating if the kidnapping on Friday occurred in Malaysian or international waters.

“The area is vast and we have our assets there. So we are investigating whether it happened in or off our waters,” he was quoted as saying by Bernama.

“The five other individuals in the ship comprising Myanmar and Indonesian nationals were released,” he added.

There were conflicting reports over whether the boat, the size of which was not immediately known, had been sailing to Malaysia from the Philippines or making the reverse journey.

Many Western and other embassies routinely issue warnings against traveling to most of the Philippines’ Muslim-populated southern regions, which lie just northeast of Sabah, because of the risk of being abducted by the Abu Sayyaf militant group.

On Tuesday, officials said that 10 Indonesian sailors had been kidnapped in waters off the southern Philippines.

The incident was believed to have happened on Saturday last week.

The Philippine military said initial information indicated the sailors might have been taken by an Abu Sayyaf faction to Sulu, an autonomous archipelago province in the Philippines that is a hideout of the militant group.

Someone claiming to be from Abu Sayyaf called the vessel’s owners to demand a ransom for the sailors’ release.

Other recent kidnappings, including those of two Canadian tourists and a Norwegian resort owner in areas previously considered beyond the Abu Sayyaf militant group’s reach, have further raised fears.

Last year, Malaysian Bernard Then was kidnapped from a seaside restaurant in Sabah, about 300km from the Abu Sayyaf’s Jolo stronghold in the Philippines.

He was later killed by the group.

The Abu Sayyaf group has staged cross-border raids into Malaysia before, including in April 2000 when gunmen seized 21 European and Asian tourists from a dive resort.

They were released in batches after a ransom was paid the following year.

Founded in the 1990s with the help of late al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the Abu Sayyaf has been blamed for some of the Philippines’ worst terror attacks, including bombings and kidnapping for ransom.

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