KUALA LUMPUR • Gunmen have kidnapped three Indonesian members of a fishing trawler crew off Malaysia's eastern state of Sabah, the latest in a string of abductions in a region noted for kidnappings by militants.
It was not immediately clear whether the men were seized by the Abu Sayyaf that is responsible for recent beheadings of Western hostages and notorious for the extortion of millions of dollars in ransoms.
The trawler, with a crew of seven, was in waters off the east coast of Sabah on Borneo island, about 3.6 nautical miles from a nearby Kampung Sinakut beach when it was attacked by armed men in a white boat late on Saturday, according to Sabah police commissioner Abdul Rashid Harun.
He said that based on early investigations, the three men kidnapped were 34-year-old Lorens Koten, 40-year-old Teo Dores Kopong and a 46-year-old identified only as Emanuel.
Mr Abdul Rashid said they are likely to be in the southern Philippines now but did not elaborate. So far, there has been no demand for ransoms to secure their release.
Four other crew members were left behind by the kidnappers who came on a speedboat.
"Victims who were released also said that while the kidnappers were on their tugboat for nearly 30 minutes, no violence took place," Mr Abdul Rashid told reporters at a press conference in Lahad Datu yesterday.
The five abductors were armed with rifles and a grenade launcher, the police added.
In Jakarta, the Indonesian Foreign Ministry said it had no information yet on the abductions.
Earlier this year, the Abu Sayyaf militant group beheaded two Canadian tourists after its ransom deadlines expired. It is still holding men from Japan, the Netherlands and Norway.
On June 20, seven Indonesian seamen were taken hostage in the Sulu Sea, allegedly also by Abu Sayyaf militants who last month freed some Malaysian sailors in the same waters after grabbing them in April.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK