KOTA KINABALU • The three fishermen who were abducted off Sabah's east coast last weekend have been taken to the Abu Sayyaf lair of Jolo island in southern Philippines, amid an ongoing military offensive against the terrorist group there.
The Star newspaper reported yesterday that the three fishermen were being held at gunpoint under the command of notorious Abu Sayyaf leader Majan Sahidjuan, also known as Apo Mike.
Apo Mike reportedly also holds five Malaysian tugboat crewmen taken on July 8 in waters off Dent Haven in Lahad Datu.
The Philippine military has been on the hunt for Abu Sayyaf militants.
Sabah Police Commissioner Abdul Rashid Harun said a call from a foreign number was received not long after the three fishermen were abducted.
He declined to reveal the contents of the conversation but said police were trying to verify the call.
Datuk Abdul Rashid, who was speaking after the Malaysia Day gathering at the Likas Sports Complex in Kota Kinabalu yesterday, said the three fishermen - Mr Masurin Jamalan, Mr Sami Ghani and Mr Loloi Alpin, who are in their 30s to 50s - were unharmed.
All three men are from the Philippine Bajau ethnic group. They were taken by seven masked gunmen who raided their Malaysia-registered trawler while it was anchored off Pom Pom Island on Saturday night.
The gunmen, armed with M-16 rifles and pistols, pulled up in a boat alongside the vessel.
According to the police, the gunmen ordered the crew to lie down before robbing them of their money, cellphones and other valuables.
The gunmen also assaulted the three men and another crew member, before kidnapping the Filipinos.
The remaining crew members returned to Semporna in Sabah after the ordeal, and the vessel owner lodged a police report early on Sunday.
It was unclear how the gunmen slipped through the security cordon off Sabah's east coast, where Malaysian security forces have been maintaining their defence since a series of kidnappings.
At least 25 Indonesians have also been taken by the group this year.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK