Gunmen seized four Malaysian crew of a tugboat off the coast of the eastern state of Sabah, a week after a similar attack on a Taiwanese tugboat in the southern Philippines, media reported on Sunday.
The four — brothers Wong Teck Kang, 31, and Wong Teck Chi, 29, their cousin, Johnny Lau Jung Hien, 21, and Wong Hung Sing, 34, who is not a relative — were taken at gunpoint on Friday evening and brought by speed boat to the southern Philippines, the Philippine Daily Inquirer said, quoting an unnamed military official. Three other crew were left behind.
The gunmen, suspected to be Abu Sayyaf militants, also took laptops, mobile phones and unspecified amounts of cash. The tugboat returned to Sabah when the gunmen left.
“We confirm receiving reports of this incident,” military spokesman Major Filemon Tan told reporters. “We have coordinated with our Malaysian counterparts.”
The Filipino gunmen have not yet contacted the victims’ family members.
It was the second attack in a week on tugboats in the waters bordering Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Ten Indonesians were abducted when a Taiwanese tugboat was intercepted in the southern Philippines.
The Abu Sayyaf, known for kidnappings, beheadings, bombings and extortions, has demanded 50 million pesos ($1.09 million) for the freedom of the Indonesian crew. The al Qaeda-linked group is one of the most hardline Islamist militant groups in the Muslim south of the largely Christian Philippines.