In the hands of Abu Sayyaf
Missing crew of listing trawler believed to be hostages in Jolo
KOTA KINABALU: The three missing crew of a Sandakan-based fishing trawler found listing with its engines running are believed to be in the Abu Sayyaf stronghold of Jolo in the Philippines.
Regional intelligence sources said a group of seven gunmen with three hostages landed on the Pata Pata islet next to Jolo on Friday night. They were taken to Panamao village.
The kidnap victims – reportedly Indonesians working for a Sandakan fishing company – were taken at gunpoint from their trawler in the Pegasus reef area in eastern Sabah waters that borders the southern Philippines province of Tawi Tawi. They were abducted on Wednesday.
One of the victims apparently made contact with a family member late Thursday night.
It was learnt that the victim told the family member that they had been abducted by gunmen and were on an island in the Philippines.
The sources also disclosed that the family member was urged to seek the assistance of the Indonesian consulate. There was no demand for ransom.
Yesterday, Sabah police commissioner Datuk Omar Mammah dismissed reports that a call had been made to the wife of one of the victims.
Speaking to reporters here, Comm Mammah said the wife told police there was no such call telling her that her husband and the other crew members had been kidnapped.
“As of now, we are unable to verify if the crew were kidnapped,” he said, adding that the operation to locate the missing men was ongoing.
Regional intelligence sources said the gunmen were led by Al Mujir Yadah, who is a member of the notorious Abu Sayyaf sub-commander, Hatib Hajan Sawadjan.
Hatib has teamed up with another sub- commander, Indang Susukan, to search for and kidnap targets in Sabah waters.
The sources said Al Mujir had been involved in local kidnappings, including of policemen in Jolo, but was despatched to the Tawi Tawi Islands to target victims of higher value.
The same group had also been involved in the shooting of a tugboat crew member during a botched kidnap attempt in the Pegasus Reef area in Tambisan in Lahad Datu at about 7.30pm on Wednesday, the same day the Indonesians were taken.
The Indonesians are believed to have been kidnapped while the gang was returning to the Philippines.
On Wednesday, the owner of the fishing company lodged a police report that he had lost contact with his crew, aged between 19 and 40.