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'White-boat gang among many acting under Abu Sayyaf'
Published on: Wednesday, July 13, 2016
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Kota Kinabalu: There could be more than one kidnap-for-ransom gangs linked to the Abu Sayyaf group prowling waters off the east coast of Sabah. A senior Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) officer said the latest strike was believed to have been committed by a group that used a white boat.

The three victims were identified by the Indonesian consulate in Tawau as Lorence Koten, 34, Theodorus Kopong, 42, and Emanuel Arakian, 40.

The kidnappers left behind four crewmen after ransacking the vessel and taking all their mobile phones and the boat's curfew exemption permit. It was the fifth case that involved kidnappers from the southern Philippines in Malaysian waters this year.

"The link (between the incidents) is the Abu Sayyaf, but we are looking into the possibility of two groups with different assets preying on slow-moving vessels in the Sulu Sea and the edges of the Celebes Sea.

"For instance, a white boat was used by a group of five to seven men to intercept a tugboat near Sin-tangkai, off Tawi-Tawi (in the southern Philippines) on April 15, just like the latest incident, but not in other cases," said the officer.

The three other cases were on March 26 off Tawi-Tawi, where 10 Indonesians were taken hostage; on April 1 off Semporna, where four Malaysians from Sarawak were kidnapped; and on June 20, where seven Indonesians were taken from a tugboat in the Sulu Sea.

"Whether the groups were under Apo Mike, the Muktadil brothers or other figures re-ported by the me-dia, we are not sure.

The information we have is based on the description of witnesses and freed hostages.

"We also looked into the kidnappings, and we found some differences apart from the size of the vessels used," the officer said.

Besides the three latest hostages, seven Indonesians remained in Abu Sayyaf custody.

The four men who were not taken hostage had identified three suspects from photofits provided by the authorities.

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun yesterday said investigations were ongoing, but there were no new developments on the captives.

In Jakarta, Xinhua quoted Indonesian armed forces chief General Gatot Nurmantyo as saying that the Abu Sayyaf was behind the kidnap-ping. He said the three victims had been moved to Philippine territory.

"The abductors are (from the) Abu Sayyaf. The abducted fishermen have been brought to the Philippines," the general said.



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