Armed men kidnap fisherman off Sabah

KUALA LUMPUR • Armed men have seized a fisherman off Sabah, an area where militants from the Abu Sayyaf group have been blamed for a series of abductions.

"One fisherman was snatched late last night," Mr Wan Abdul Bari Abdul Khalid, head of Malaysia's Eastern Sabah Security Command, said yesterday. "The attack was carried out by six suspects, some armed with M-16 rifles."

Malaysian marine police chief Abdul Rahim Abdullah said the kidnappers arrived in a fast craft and headed towards southern Philippine waters after the incident.

The Malaysian victim, who owned the fishing boat, was with 20 other crew members when he was abducted, the Star online news reported. The incident happened well within Malaysian waters off Semporna's Gaya Island, which is a short boat ride away from Philippine waters.

The authorities did not say if they believed that Abu Sayyaf, which is notorious for kidnapping for ransom, was involved.

Earlier this month, three fisherman were seized by armed militants in nearby waters and taken to southern Philippines.

The latest kidnapping comes after two Islamic militants linked to the abductions of 26 Malaysian and Indonesian sailors this year were killed on Tuesday off a remote Philippine island.

Nixon Muktadil and his brother Brown were members of the Abu Sayyaf group who helped snatch crew members of five tugboats carrying coal and other commodities on waters bordering Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

Abu Sayyaf is a loose network of militants formed in the 1990s, with seed money from Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network, that has earned millions of dollars from kidnappings.

Although its leaders have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group, analysts say they are mainly focused on lucrative kidnappings.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 29, 2016, with the headline 'Armed men kidnap fisherman off Sabah'. Print Edition | Subscribe