PETALING JAYA: Abu Sayyaf gunmen are believed to have struck again in international sea waters in the Celebes Sea.
Hardly two weeks after four Malaysians were released by the militant group, gunmen are believed to have taken at least six Indonesia sailors off a tugboat in waters between Philippines and Indonesia at about 11am Wednesday.
The gunmen are believed to be hiding on an island in Tawi Tawi and are poised to demand ransoms of nearly RM200mil for their release.
Sources say that they are trying to enter Jolo tonight with the kidnap victims. The identity of the group responsible is yet to be fully established.
However, the Indonesian embassy in Manila has denied the reports.
According to the Indonesian minister counsellor in Manila, Eddy Mulya, Indonesian authorities have confirmed with the Harbour Master Port Authority’s office in Samarinda that the news of the alledged kidnapping was not true.
In a statement on Wednesday, Eddy also said that a search on Google had revealed that the number given to the authorities for negotiation belonged to a fraud syndicate.
He also said that the coordinates of the ship at 12.45pm revealed that the vessel was nearing the island of Maratua, heading in the direction of Samarinda.
Indonesia’s National Armed Forces (TMI) military chief General Gatot Nurmantyo had denied reports of the kidnapping.
“I’m sure it’s a lie,” Gatot was quoted as saying by the Indonesian press on Wednesday.
Earlier, rumours began circulating that six or seven men from Samarinda in East Kalimantan were taken hostage by Abu Sayyaf militants while their vessel, TB Charles had been sailing in Filipino waters.
On Wednesday, one of the ship’s crew, by the name of Ismail, had contacted his wife Dian Megawati informing her of the alleged kidnapping and urged her to contact the authorities.Ismail had also told his wife that seven of the 13men on board the TB Charles had been taken by the group and asked her to prepare ransom for their release.