ZAMBOANGA CITY (Updated) – Eight fishermen were killed after at least five suspected pirates boarded a fishing boat in Zamboanga waters and strafed the crew, officials said Tuesday.

The Zamboanga City Police Office (ZCPO) said that the killing happened around 8 p.m. Monday near Siromon Island in the village of Dita.

The ZCPO said they are yet to identify the fatalities, who are crew members of a fishing boat based in Barangay Sangali.

Initial investigation showed the fishing boat manned by 15 crewmen was on the way home to Sangali village from Sibuktuk Island when five gunmen aboard two motorboats accosted them.

Lieutenant Commander Alvin Dagalea, commander of coast guard station in Zamboanga, said that the armed men boarded the fishing vessel and divested the crewmen of cash and valuables.

He said the gunmen ordered the crewmen to go to the bow area.

"Then suddenly the armed men strafed them," he added.

The police said the seven other crewmen survived as they managed to jump off the boat and swam to nearby Siromon Island.

Dagalea said some of the survivors were rescued by a passing motorboat while others were found on the nearby island. Their boat, riddled with holes, sank.

Policemen were deployed to fetch the survivors while government forces are now tracking down the culprits.

Abu Sayyaf bandits are suspected to being behind a string of ship hijackings in the southern Philippine, and last week, coast guard and navy units foiled an attempt by suspect Abu Sayyaf gunmen to hijack a cargo vessel in nearby Basilan province. (Sunnex/With AP)