4 Indonesians kidnapped by pirates off Tawi-Tawi

MANILA (Updated) -- Four Indonesian crew members of a Malaysian tugboat have been kidnapped by gunmen off Tawi-Tawi province on Friday night, the military said.

Major Filemon Tan, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said the incident happened around 6:30 p.m. Friday, April 15, near Pondo Sibugal, Sitangkai town.

The Indonesian Foreign Ministry said Saturday that the attack happened Friday night as crew members of TB Henry were heading to Tarakan on Indonesia's Borneo island from Cebu province in central Philippines.

The Ministry said that five other crew members and a gunshot victim managed to escape and were taken to Malaysia by its maritime police along with the tugboat.

The wounded Indonesian is in a stable condition.

The Westmincom said troops are monitoring areas where the new kidnap victims could be brought, including Jolo island in Sulu province, where Abu Sayyaf militants are believed to be holding foreign hostages in jungle camps.

Philippine military spokesman Brigadier General Restituo Padila said officials were assessing if the Abu Sayyaf or other armed groups were involved in Friday's kidnappings.

The incident comes after the kidnapping in March of the 10-member crew of an Indonesian tugboat and barge in the often insecure border region between the southern Philippines and Indonesia.

In that case, the owner of the tugboat received telephone calls, purportedly from the militant group Abu Sayyaf, demanding a ransom.

Authorities believe the 10 Indonesians are held captive in the southern Philippines.

The Indonesian Foreign Ministry said the government will take steps to address the frequent occurrence of piracy in the region and invite neighboring countries to improve security. (VR/AP/Sunnex)
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