4 Filipino fishermen feared kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf off Sulu

MANILA -- The Philippine military said Abu Sayyaf bandits are suspected of kidnapping four Filipino fishermen in the latest such attack by the ransom-seeking gunmen despite increased security in Mindanao.

Other fishermen found the F/B Ramona 2 fishing boat Tuesday, December 20, in the Celebes Sea but its skipper, mechanic and two crewmen and the boat's radio and GPS equipment were missing, regional military spokesman Major Filemon Tan said.

Tan said Noel Besconde (boat captain), Reyjim Rocabo (vessel mechanic), Roy Ramos and Roel Liones, all residents of Tukuran, Zamboanga del Sur, were abducted while onboard F/B Ramona 2 within the Celebes Sea around 2:30 a.m. F/B Ramona 2 is a service-type vessel owned by the Ramona Fishing Corporation.

The incident was reported to authorities by the crew onboard a sister ship, FB Melissa 2.

He said the last contact of F/B Melissa 2 with F/B Ramona 2 was at 3 a.m. Tuesday.

Tan said troops were alerted to look for the missing fishermen who may have been taken to nearby Sulu province, where the bandits are holding other hostages in jungle encampments.

Tan added the Armed Forces of the Philippines, particularly the Naval Task Group, is already conducting operations to locate and safely rescue the victims.

The Joint Task Forces Tawi-Tawi and Basilan were also alerted to conduct patrols.

Kidnappings of boat and cargo crewmen by the Abu Sayyaf and allied gunmen have continued despite efforts from the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia to bolster sea security.

Without any known foreign support, the Abu Sayyaf has depended largely on kidnappings for ransom, extortion and acts of banditry to survive. The brutal group has been blacklisted by the United States and the Philippines as a terrorist organization for bombings, kidnappings and beheadings. (AP/With reports from Bong Garcia and Third Anne Peralta–Malonzo/Sunnex)

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