KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysian authorities said Sunday that another two Indonesian fishermen have been abducted by armed men off eastern Sabah state on Borneo island, the second such case this month and the latest in a spate of sea attacks.
Wan Abdul Bari Wan Abdul Khalid, who heads Sabah’s security center, said five masked men armed with long rifles raided a fishing trawler late Saturday. He told local media Sunday that the men destroyed the boat’s communications system and stole hand phones and money before kidnapping the skipper and his assistant.
He said the attackers then fled in a speed boat heading toward international waters. Another 11 crew members were rescued by passing boats, he added without giving further details. Wan Abdul Bari and Sabah police couldn’t be immediately reached for comments.
Earlier this month, two Indonesian boat skippers were also abducted off Sabah.
Despite efforts by the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia to jointly shore up security along their busy sea border, Indonesians and Malaysians have been kidnapped from tugboats and fishing boats in recent months
Abu Sayyaf militants in the Philippines, which is near Sabah, and its allied gunmen are responsible for many attacks at sea. The Abu Sayyaf group, which is blacklisted in the U.S. and the Philippines as a terrorist organization, holds more than a dozen foreign and local hostages.
The kidnappings have continued despite one of the largest military offensives against Abu Sayyaf, mainly in Sulu and the nearby island province of Basilan, involving more than 6,000 troops, navy gunboats and rocket-firing air force aircraft.
Without a known foreign source of funds, Abu Sayyaf has survived mostly on ransom kidnappings, extortion and other acts of banditry.
A confidential Philippine government threat assessment report seen by The Associated Press said the militants pocketed at least 353 million pesos ($7.3 million) from ransom kidnappings in the first six months of the year and have turned to abductions of foreign tugboat crewmen as military offensives restricted their mobility.
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