KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – Armed men seized a fisherman off Malaysia’s eastern Sabah state, an official said Wednesday (Sept 28), an area where militants from the Abu Sayyaf group have been blamed for a series of abductions.
“One fisherman was snatched late last night,” Wan Abdul Bari Abdul Khalid, head of Malaysia’s Eastern Sabah Security Command, told AFP. “The attack was carried out by six suspects, some armed with M-16 rifles.”
Malaysian marine police chief Abdul Rahim Abdullah told AFP that the kidnappers came in a fast craft and headed in the direction of southern Philippine waters after the incident.
The Malaysian victim who owned the fishing boat was with 20 other sailors when he was taken, the Star online news reported.
The incident happened well inside Malaysian waters off Semporna’s Gaya island, which is a short ride away from Philippines waters. Authorities did not say if they believed the Abu Sayyaf was involved which is notorious for kidnapping for ransom.
Early this month, three fisherman were seized by armed militants in nearby waters and taken to the southern Philippines.
The latest kidnapping comes after two Islamic militants linked to the abductions of 26 Malaysian and Indonesian sailors this year were killed Tuesday off a remote Philippine island.
Nixon Muktadil and his brother Brown Muktadil 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.
The 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-for-ransom.
Although its leaders have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, analysts say they are mainly focused on lucrative kidnappings.