PENANG: The pirates who kidnapped three crewmen of a tugboat 45.5 nautical miles west of Tanjung Hantu, Lumut, in Perak used local fishing boats to avoid detection by maritime authorities.
Maritime Enforcement Co-ordinating Centre Laksamana Pertama Abdul Hadi Abdul Rashid said crewmen of the Japanese-registered tugboat Idaten did not suspect anything amiss when the three fishing boats approached them.
“They were able to go near to the tugboat before striking,” he said.
“Our checks show that the registration numbers on the fishing boats were false. No ransom demand has been received from the pirates, who are believed to be Indonesians.”He was speaking to reporters after closing an eight-day sea exercise codenamed Ops Samudera Gagah yesterday.
The operation led by northern region marine police chief Asst Comm Sahadan Halus took place along the Straits of Malacca, starting from Pulau Jarak, Perak, up to Pulau Langkawi, Kedah.
LP Abdul Hadi said a marine police patrol taking part in the operation was barely 15 nautical miles from the scene of the pirate attack but could not reach in time to help.
The three crewmen kidnapped by pirates armed with rocket launchers and machine guns were Capt Nododuo Indue, 54, and Shunji Kuroda, 51, both Japanese; and Sadang Paliawan, 41, a Filipino.
LP Abdul Hadi said preliminary investigations revealed that the pirates, believed to be also responsible for the attack on two other vessels on March 2 and 12, had taken the hostages to Sumatra, Indonesia.
“The modus operandi was the same and the pirates numbering at least 14 were all dressed in black. They were also armed with the same type of weapons,” he added.
State police chief Deputy Comm Datuk Christopher Wan said the case had been handed over to his Perak counterparts as the crime scene was within their jurisdiction.
“The tugboat and the barge are still anchored at the Swettenham Pier. The crew is presently drawing up the navigational charts so that the vessels can continue the journey to Myanmar,” he added.