KOTA KINABALU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Five Indonesian fishermen were abducted from the eastern edge of Sabah waters off Lahad Datu by kidnap-for-ransom groups linked to the notorious Abu Sayyaf from southern Philippines.
Six gunmen dressed in black overalls took the five of eight fishermen from their Sabah-registered trawler in waters between Tambisan and Kuala Meruap in Lahad Datu, close to the Philippine sea border at 8pm on Thursday (Jan 16).
Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) commander Hazani Ghazali said on Saturday that the gunmen were in a speedboat and fled towards the neighbouring country after taking the five hostages.
He said Esscom has communicated with its counterparts in the Philippines and is carrying out follow-up operations in the area.
Around 1pm on Friday, local fishermen told marine police in Lahad Datu that they had spotted fishing nets in the area but could not find the trawler or its crew in the Tambisan vicinity.
By 9pm, Esscom security forces located the trawler heading towards Tambisan and an elite squad boarded the trawler to find three crew members inside.
The kidnapped crewmen are skipper Arsyad Dahlan, 41; La Baa, 32; Riswanto Hayano, 27; Edi Lawalopo, 53; and Syarizal Kastamiran, 29. All are Indonesians working for a Sandakan-based fishing company.
Kidnapping groups under the control of Abu Sayyaf gunmen Salip Murah and Mike Apo have been lurking along the sea borders between Sabah and the Philippines' Tawi Tawi chain of islands in their hunt for value targets.
Previous kidnappings have taken place in Tambisan waters, which are hardly 10 minutes away from the Tawi Tawi islands.