Three crewmembers of a tugboat have been taken hostage by armed pirates in waters off the Malaysian state of Sabah.
Malaysia's Star newspaper reports that a group fired on the Malaysian-owned "Bonggaya 91" and the barge it was towing, before boarding the vessel in the Sulawesi Sea near the Sabah district of Semporna.
The gunmen fled with three of the six Indonesian crew and the tug's radio communication set.
Map of area, Sabah marked with red star:
Update: The ONI Worldwide Threat to Shipping message for 30 March 05 is available here. Just click on the date to open. Some highlights (mostly proving the pirates involved are criminal, though with a nasty streak):
4. INDONESIA: An unidentified bulk carrier reported an
attempted boarding 26 Mar at 1830 UTC while berthed at the
Balikpapan coal terminal. Four persons in a fast craft came
along side and two persons tried to board by climbing the mooring
ropes. Alert crew raised alarm and boarding was averted.
Authorities were informed (IMB).
5. INDONESIA: An unidentified tanker was boarded 22 Mar at
0330 local time while in position 05:58.3S, 105:59.4E, near
Pertamina jetty - 1, Tg. Gerem. Alert crew sounded alarm and
mustered after two robbers, armed with long knives, boarded the
tanker. Robbers then jumped overboard and escaped empty handed
in a speedboat (IMB).
6. INDONESIA: An unidentified bulk carrier was boarded 20
Mar at 1905 local time at Balikpapan inner anchorage. The
intruders tried to break into the bosun's store but fled empty
handed when crew raised alarm. One crew member was injured
resisting the thieves (IMB).
7. INDONESIA: The Malaysian fishing boat (MITRA UTAMA) was
boarded and robbed 14 Mar while off Belawan with a cargo of
vegetables enroute form Malaysia. Pirates, armed with machine
guns, stole communications equipment and other property. They
also took the Indonesian pilot and chief engineer hostage,
demanding a ransom of hundreds of millions of rupiah from the
vessel's owner and the hostages' families.'
8. JAVA SEA: An unidentified tanker was boarded 07 Mar
at 0755 local time while underway in position 04:47S 114:14E, near
Borneo, Indonesia. Pirates stole ship's equipment. Several
fishing boats were in the area at the time (IMB).
9. MALAYSIA: Two Filipino fishermen are reported dead in
one of three separate pirate incidents which occurred between 2300
local time 18 Mar and 0200 local time 19 Mar off Tungku. The
pirates robbed the boats of engines and kerosene lanterns (INFO).
Also, a Noregian paper reports: "Seven Norwegian vessels were attacked by pirates last year, with Indonesian waters being the riskiest on the seven seas." Details here.
Update: The Philippine Navy is going after the pirates who kidnapped the Indonesian sailors near Sabah.
Philippine naval forces have been sent to track down pirates who kidnapped three crewmen of a Malaysian tugboat and are believed to have fled to the southernmost Philippine islands.
Chief of regional naval forces in the southern Philippines, Commodore Rufino Lopez, says naval units are checking the islands of Tawi-tawi.
Three Indonesian crewmen were seized when five armed pirates boarded their vessel off Malaysia's Sabah state on Wednesday.
Mr Lopez says the pirates, who are believed to be Filipinos, took their hostages on a speedboat towards Tawi-tawi.
A district police spokesman says he believes the kidnappers are from the Abu Sayyaf rebel group.
The Jakarta Post has more details
Captain Geronimo Malabanan, a navy spokesman, said at least three ships have been deployed in around Tawi-Tawi to "monitor and conduct negation and barrier patrol on the borders of Malaysia and the Philippines".
"The Philippine navy is coordinating with the Malaysian police regarding the incident," he added...
...Filipino pirates, who mainly operate in the southern Philippines, have in the past abducted Indonesian and Malaysian sailors for ransom. In some cases, the pirates turned over their hostages to the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf rebel group in exchange for money.
Last year, two Malaysian sailors and an Indonesian skipper were abducted off Sabah and turned over to the Abu Sayyaf. The three were believed to have either died of illness or killed by their captors.
Update2: And even details from The Philippine Star:
The Navy identified the three Indonesian hostages as tugboat captain Ahmad Rumiyati, 33, Yamin Labusu and Erekson Hutagul.
They were seized when five gun-wielding pirates boarded their vessel, the Bonggaya 91 tugboat, off Malaysia’s Sabah state on Wednesday.
Initial reports said Filipino pirates boarded the boat in Malaysian waters off Semporna in the eastern state of Sabah on Borneo island before fleeing towards Tawi-Tawi archipelago.
Lopez said their initial investigation indicated the attackers were Filipino pirates.
Navy spokesman Capt. Geronimo Malabanan said the Philippine Navy is coordinating with the Malaysian police over the kidnapping incident.
The Bonggaya 91 was on its way back to Sandakan in Sabah from Indonesia when it was attacked and boarded Wednesday morning.
Lopez said the pirates, piloting a speedboat and armed with M-16 and AK-47 rifles, intercepted the slow-moving tugboat near Mataking island, near Palau off Semporna east of Sabah.
The gunmen fired warning shots as they jumped aboard the tugboat and seized three of the six crewmen. They then ripped out the ship’s communication equipment before escaping towards the southern Philippines border with the hostages.