Three Indonesian boat crew have reportedly been kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf militants in the Southern Philippines, a Foreign Affairs Ministry official said on Monday (23/01).
The three Indonesians were reported missing after Malaysian authorities found their boat unoccupied in waters off Taganak, Sabah, last Thursday at 1.09 p.m.
“As of this time, the Malaysian authorities have conducted an investigation but have not reached a conclusion. However, our sources in the Philippines have confirmed that the three Indonesians were moved to Sulu Island in Southern Philippines,” Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, the director of citizen protection and legal aid at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, as reported by state news agency Antara.
One of the victims has informed his family in Indonesia that he has been taken hostage, Lalu added.
Three other boats reportedly witnessed the attack, but their crew have not been investigated.
The Indonesian Consulate Generals in Kinabalu and Tawau are communicating intensely with Malaysian authorities to get updates on the investigation.
There have been 16 attacks since last March on ships passing through the Sulu and Celebes Seas, where about $40 billion worth of cargo passes each year, according to the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia, or ReCAAP.
The government-backed anti-piracy organization says over a dozen ship crew are currently being held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf militants, all of them kidnapped from ships sailing through the Sulu and Celebes Seas.
Last December, Abu Sayyaf militants had released two Indonesian ship crew who had been held hostage in the separatists’ stronghold in Southern Philippines.
The men were among seven crew members of the tugboat Charles 001, who were abducted in separate attacks in June by Abu Sayyaf rebels, a group linked to Al-Qaeda and infamous for kidnappings and beheading their captives.