The Taganak Islands are also known as the Turtle Islands.
Three crewmembers of an Indonesian vessel have reportedly been kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf militants in the southern Philippines, a Foreign Ministry official said on Monday (23/01).
Area in Interest (click on image to enlarge)
The Indonesians were reported missing after Malaysian authorities found their boat unoccupied in waters off Taganak in Sabah last Thursday at 1.09 p.m.
"As of this time, the Malaysian authorities have conducted an investigation but have not reached a conclusion. However, our sources in the Philippines have confirmed that the three Indonesians were moved to Sulu Island in the southern Philippines," said Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, the director of citizen protection and legal aid at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as reported by state news agency Antara.
One of the victims has informed his family in Indonesia that he has been taken hostage, Lalu added.
The crews of three other boats reportedly witnessed the attack, but they have not been questioned.
There have been 16 attacks since last March last year on ships passing through the Sulu and Celebes seas, through which about $40 billion worth of cargo passes each year, according to the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP).
The government-backed anti-piracy organization says over a dozen crewmembers are currently being held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf militants, all of them kidnapped from ships sailing through the Sulu and Celebes seas.
A WaPo article suggests the motivations for such kidnappings both off the Philippines and other locales:
Despite the Philippine government’s efforts to crush Abu Sayyaf, the Jakarta Post reported the group took in more than $7 million in ransom money to free 20 hostages seized during the first half of 2016.This rationale for the kidnappers makes sense and adds to their vicious reputation at the same time.
The militant group used these funds to purchase weapons, ammunition and other supplies to counter a renewed Philippine military offensive — and implement an extensive series of bombings, including one detonated in the home town of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
The Philippine and Indonesian governments announced plans in June to coordinate naval patrols in the Southern Sulu archipelago to curb the maritime threat and cut off Abu Sayyaf‘s coffers.