In this file photo, a Philippine Navy Multi-Purpose Assault Craft goes on patrol.
File photo
Westmincom: Malaysian group likely behind abduction off Sabah
Roel Pareño ( - June 19, 2019 - 2:11pm

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — A Malaysia-based lawless group may be behind the abduction on Tuesday of 10 fishermen off Lahad Datu in Sabah, the military's Western Mindanao Command said.

Col. Gerry Besana, spokesman and civil military chief of the Westmincom, said troops in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, areas near the maritime border with Malaysia, have been alerted to the possible presence of the fishermen and their abductors.

Besana said troops have intensified their monitoring and are prepared to intercept the gunmen and conduct rescue operations if needed.

"Kidnapping has been occurring in that area of Malaysia and we are looking at a certain Mameh, a Malaysian lawless group as perpetrators," Besana said.

The unidentified gunmen, who used speedboats, intercepted fishing boat Kru Felda Sahabat 9 off Lahad Datu around 2:45 a.m. on Tuesday. The gunment took 10 of the 16 members of the boat's crew.

Those left behind said the gunmen were in military uniforms and were speaking Malay. The kidnappers reportedly escaped in the direction of Sitangkai in Tawi-Tawi.

No group has claimed responsibility for the abduction off Sabah, the latest since January, when three fishermen—a Malaysian and two Indonesians were taken and brought to Sulu, where the Abu Sayyaf held them captive.

Besana said Malaysian authorities do not have the abductors' identities yet but are looking at possible ties with the Abu Sayyaf.

The Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia have been conducting patrols along the porous sea borders of the three countries.

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