English World

No news of five crew members who disappeared from boat found in Lahad Datu

KOTA KINABALU: Five Malaysian sailors have gone missing from their tugboat which was found in waters off Lahad Datu on Monday.

They are believed to have been kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf-linked gunmen.

They mysteriously disappeared in an area close to the southern Philippines’ Tawi-Tawi chain of islands where only a week ago three Indonesian fishermen were kidnapped by the group in waters off Dent Haven in the Tambisan area of Lahad Datu.

Police, however, are not rushing to declare the latest incident a cross-border kidnapping and are looking at all aspects to ascertain the disappearance of crew members Abd Rahim Summas, 62, Tayudin Anjut, 45, Fandy Bakran, 26, Mohd Zumadil Rahim, 23 and Mohd Ridzuan Ismail, 32.

“We are not discounting the possibility of kidnapping but we do not have any confirmation at this moment,” Sabah Police Commis­sioner Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun told a press conference in Lahad Datu yesterday.

Rashid said that neither the families nor the employer of the crew members had received any calls for ransom, dismissing claims that the owner of the tugboat company had received a call late on Monday where purported kidnappers had demanded 200mil Pesos (RM17mil) and had also spoken to the victims.

Philippine officials in Tawi-Tawi and Jolo also said that they were unaware of any fresh kidnappings since the July 9 incident involving three Indonesian fishermen who were taken from a Lahad Datu-registered boat.

The empty tugboat Serudung 3 was discovered at 2pm on Monday by another vessel passing by the area. Prepared food was seen on the tugboat.

The owner said that the Serudung 3 had just completed towing its barge which had unloaded its cargo of stones in Sandakan and was on its way back to Semporna.

The vessel was scheduled to return to Semporna at 8am on Monday.

Philippine and Malaysian intelligence believe that Abu Sayyaf sub commander Apo Mike (real name Majan Sahidjuan) has been lurking in the border waters and preying on slow-moving tugboats along the Sabah-Philippines sea borders.

Since late March, the armed group has been responsible for at least half a dozen kidnappings of Malaysian and Indonesian sailors and fishermen along the sea borders, triggering calls for firmer action by the Philippines to wipe out the threat along the international maritime route.

Rashid said he has discussed their next course of action with the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) commander and urged all boat operators to inform the authorities before heading out to sea.

In Maran, the brother of Mohd Ridzuan said he had advised his brother to quit his job at sea and find a different line of work on land.

However, Mohd Ridzuan insisted on sailing because he wanted to earn more money to help out the family.

“He said he wanted to repair our house and needed money for that. Every month, he sent us money and just two days before Hari Raya, he called us to ask about our preparations.

“He sent us money to buy new clothes. He is very responsible for our well-being,” Mohd Raisuddin said at his house in Felda Jengka 7 here yesterday.

He said he would keep praying for Mohd Ridzuan’s safety.-thestar

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