ReCAAP ISC warns of Abu Sayyaf presence near Sabah

Members of Abu Sayyaf in the jungle. Credit: Getty Images

The Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against ships in Asia Information Sharing Centre (ReCAAP ISC) has warned ship operators of the presence of a group of five Abu Sayyaf Group members who are believed to have arrived at Omapoy Island in Tawi-Tawi, in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Mindanao, Philippines.

In an alert sent out on 22 May 2020, ReCAAP ISC said that it was notified by the Philippine Coast Guard that the pro-Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Abu Sayyaf Group is suspected to be plotting to kidnap businessmen and crew on slow-moving vessels or fishing boats. The kidnappings are carried out for ransoms and hostages have been killed when ransoms were not paid.

“Ship masters and crew are strongly urged to exercise extra vigilance when transiting the waters off eastern Sabah and in the Sulu-Celebes Seas,” said ReCAAP ISC in a statement.

The Philippine Coast Guard said that the Abu Sayyaf perpetrators are believed to be carrying assorted firearms.

In September 2019, three Indonesian crew were abducted by Abu Sayyaf perpetrators from a Malaysian fishing boat near Tambisan Island in Sabah. The incident happened after 10 fishermen were kidnapped from two fishing boats in the same area in June 2019. In December 2019, the Philippine military rescued two of the three Indonesian crew, while the other captive crew was rescued in January 2020.

Philippine soldiers and Abu Sayyaf members have died in clashes over the years. In the latest clash, the military killed two Abu Sayyaf members on 3 May.