KOTA KINABALU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Two Indonesian skippers were abducted from their Sandakan-registered fishing boats on Saturday in separate incidents in the east coast waters off Kuala Kinabatangan close to the Philippines.
The two men, aged 52 and 46, were taken at around 11am and 11.45am in the latest incident amid a spree of robbery and abductions along the Sabah and Tawi-Tawi island chain.
Eastern Sabah Security commander Datuk Wan Bari Wan Abdul Khalid, who confirmed the incidents, said they occurred three nautical miles apart in Kertam waters, some 15 nautical miles from the Kinabatangan river.
There were many fishing vessels at the area where the abduction took place.
"In the first incident, five gunmen on a speed boat had gone up a fishing boat and took its 52-year-old skipper," Wan Bari said, adding the area was also known as Pegasus reef.
"They left two crewmen aged 47 and 35 on the boat," he said.
Wan Bari said the gunmen fled towards international waters but managed to grab another skipper some three nautical miles away.
"They only took the skipper and left three others, including the victim's 10-year-old son," he added.
Wan Bari said they only got information on the incidents at about 1pm.
"We got more details after the crew reached Sandakan jetty at about 6.40pm," he said.
The gunmen, three of whom were in fatigues and two in civilian clothes, made off with all communication equipment, including GPS systems from the fishing vessels.
It is believed that the gunmen are based in one of the Tawi-Tawi islands and are not directly linked to the Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom group.