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Gunmen on a speedboat have kidnapped four crew members of a Malaysians barge sailing off the east coast of Sabah state.

The waters from where the crew were kidnapped are known to be infested with Abu Sayyaf militants, Malaysian and Philippine local media reported.

The men from the state of Sarawak were returning after delivering logs in Manila when their barge was attacked by the gunmen, Channel News Asia said.

Sabah province officials said five other individuals in the ship comprising Myanmar and Indonesian nationals were released.

Authorities are investigating if the kidnapping happened in Malaysian or international waters, Bernama news agency reported, citing Sabah province police commissioner Abdul Rashid Harun.

"The area is vast and we have our assets there. So we are investigating whether it happened in or off our waters," Harun told Bernama.

Last week, around 10 Indonesian sailors were kidnapped in waters off the southern Philippines. Manila believes the sailors were kidnapped by an Abu Sayyaf faction and were taken to the remote southern island of Sulu.

"We do take it seriously. We want to address this and the government is taking steps to address this. We have a long coastal line, from time to time, we will see what we can do – at least for the safety of the people and tourists who come here," Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said.

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