Taiwan coastguard raid fishing boat, arrest 9 Indonesians

TAIPEI (AFP) - Taiwan's coastguard raided a fishing vessel thousands of miles offshore, arresting nine Indonesian crew suspected of murdering their Taiwanese captain and chief engineer, officials said on Sunday.

Armed with rifles and handguns, 10 Taiwanese coastguards conducted the raid early Saturday when the fishing boat was sailing nearly 4,500 nautical miles from the island's southernmost tip. The pre-dawn raid came after the vessel's owner reported to the authorities on July 18 that for three days the Taiwanese skipper had not responded to his satellite call.

A coastguard patrol boat in the Pacific intercepted the Te Hung Hsing No. 368, a 98-tonne fishing vessel. The coastguards said they could not find skipper Chen Te-sheng, 55 and chief engineer Ho Chang-lin, 67 onboard and the nine Indonesian crew were tight-lipped about their whereabouts.

"We fear they've been murdered and tossed overboard," a coastguard spokesman told AFP.

The nine Indonesians were being shipped back to Taiwan for investigation, with their arrival scheduled around August 20, the coastguard said.