KOTA KINABALU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Suspected Abu Sayyaf-linked gunmen are believed to have abducted 10 fishermen from two boats off Sabah close to the Tawi Tawi chain of islands in southern Philippines.
The two vessels were in waters off Lahad Datu's Tambisan area and heading towards the town of Semporna when they were hijacked by gunmen, believed to be heavily armed, in speedboats at about 2am on Tuesday (June 18).
The victims are all believed to be Filipinos.
The gunmen were believed to have taken four of the six crewmen in the first fishing boat and six of the 10 crew members in the second boat.
They were believed to have fled towards the southern Philippines island of Sitangkai which is only about a 15 minute speedboat ride from the sea off Lahad Datu.
When contacted, Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Omar Mammah said they were aware of the suspected kidnapping incident but had yet to receive any official reports.
The two fishing boats were believed to have been operating during curfew hours without a permit.
The remaining six fishermen, who were rescued by the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, claimed they were heading to Semporna to renew their permits.