5 missing Malaysian tugboat crew kidnapped

Five missing Malaysian crew of a tugboat were feared kidnapped by suspected Philippine militants off Borneo in Eastern Malaysia, State Police Chief Abdul Rashid Harun said.

He said that fishermen had spotted the tugboat on Monday night with its engine still running off the district of Lahad Datu in the state of Sabah, but the five crew members were missing.

“We are investigating the case and we do not discount the possibility of kidnapping,” Haruna said.

He said that the vessel was recovered near the border with the southern Philippine island of Tawi-Tawi where Philippine Abu Sayyaf rebels operate.

The owner said that the vessel was on the way back to the town of Semporna after towing a barge loaded with gravel to the nearby town of Sandakan.

The tugboat was supposed to arrive in Semporna early Monday.

The disappearance of the five crew members came two weeks after Abu Sayyaf militants from the southern Philippines seized three Indonesian fishermen in the same area.

The Abu Sayyaf has made at least five kidnappings in the Sulu Sea-Celebes Sea area, which borders the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia.

They have also seized several Malaysian and Indonesian hostages who were released only after ransoms amounting to millions of dollars were paid.

The Abu Sayyaf are still holding seven Indonesians, whom they seized three weeks ago also in the Sulu Sea-Celebes Sea area.

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