MANILA • Gunmen in southern Philippine waters killed one crewman of a Vietnamese vessel and abducted seven in what appeared to be the latest attack by pirates in the area, the Philippine Coast Guard said yesterday.
Coast guard and marine soldiers rescued 17 Vietnamese who were part of the 25-man crew of MV Giang Hai, which was attacked on Sunday evening near Baguan Island on the tip of Tawi-Tawi island province, an area close to the stronghold of the notorious Abu Sayyaf militant group. Baguan Island is a major island located in the municipality of Turtle Islands.
An investigation is under way and the coast guard has launched a pursuit in coordination with the military and police, said coast guard spokesman, Commander Armand Balilo.
Well-armed and equipped with fast boats and high-tech navigation devices, the Abu Sayyaf is a stubborn problem for the Philippine military, which has failed to curtail piracy and kidnappings in the area despite major troop deployments in the Sulu Archipelago.
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria-linked group has been involved in frequent acts of piracy and beheaded captives when ransom demands were not met.
Before the latest attack, the militants were holding 27 hostages, according to a tally of reports about kidnappings and a few releases. The captives are Indonesian, Malaysian and Vietnamese seamen, as well as Filipinos, a Dutchman, a German and a Japanese national.
A surge in piracy off parts of the Philippines is forcing shipowners to divert vessels through other waters, pushing up costs and shipping times.
Last year, the Philippines made an agreement with Indonesia and Malaysia to chase down pirates in the Sulu and Celebes seas.
Last month, President Rodrigo Duterte said he had asked China for help in the fight against the militants by sending ships to patrol the waters.