The Philippine military has rescued two out of three Indonesian crewmen who were abducted from their fishing vessel on 23 September by militant group Abu Sayyaf.
The men had taken the chance to escape from their captors, who are said to be part of the Abu Sayyaf’s kidnap-for-ransom group as the military staged a pre-dawn raid on 22 December.
A Philippine soldier and an Abu Sayyaf militant were killed during a 30-minute gunfight in Panamao on the southern island of Jolo.
The whereabouts of the third Indonesian crewman are still not known, and the Philippine military is continuing its efforts to rescue him.
Military commander lieutenant general Cirilito Sobejana told journalists: “During the firefights, the two victims managed to scamper away [from the militants] and we were able to rescue them.”
The three Indonesian crewmen were taken from their fishing vessel off Tambisan Island, Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia, near the southern tip of the Philippine island of Mindanao. The attackers had boarded the fishing vessel from two pump boats, according to piracy reporting centre ReCAAP ISC.
Of the remaining victim, Sobejana said: “He could have escaped, or militants could still have him, so we are expecting another firefight.”
The Abu Sayyaf militant group is known to abduct people for ransom, with victims coming from all walks of life.
ReCAAP ISC said that seafarers in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and waters off eastern Sabah are at high risk of being captured by the Abu Sayyaf, adding that nine other crewmen were abducted off Tawi-Tawi, Philippines, on 18 June.
ReCAAP ISC said: “All ships are advised to reroute from the area, where possible. Otherwise, ship masters and crew are strongly urged to exercise extra vigilance while transiting the area, and report immediately to the Operation Centres of Philippines and Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) of Malaysia.”