Three Indonesian members of a tugboat crew were abducted by five armed men off Lahad Datu around 11.40 p.m. on Saturday, the police confirmed on Sunday.
Sabah police commissioner Abdul Rashid Harun said in a press conference that the gunmen attacked the tugboat, with a crew of seven, when it was in waters off the east coast of Sabah on the Borneo island in Malaysia.
Based on the investigations, he said that the three men who were abducted have been identified as 34-year-old tugboat captain Lorens Koten, 40-year-old Teo Dores Kopong and a 46-year-old identified only as Emanuel. The attackers have released the other four crew members on the boat.
"Three crew members carrying Indonesian passports were taken by the kidnappers. The remaining four, an Indonesian and three Filipinos were released because they did not have documents," Harun told AFP.
He said that the released victims have said that the gunmen were on their boat for almost 30 minutes but "no violence took place".
The police said that the five abductors were armed with rifles and also had a grenade launcher. But it is not clear whether the three men have been seized by the Abu Sayyaf group.
The Indonesian government said it had no information yet on the incident.
The incident follows the recent abduction of seven Indonesian sailors, who were taken hostage by the Abu Sayyaf militants on June 20 in the Sulu Sea.
The Abu Sayyaf group is known for kidnapping people and demanding millions of dollars in ransom for their return. Last month, a group of Malaysian sailors, who were kidnapped by the militants in April, was released.
The group had earlier abducted 10 Indonesian sailors on March 29, and another four on April 15. All of them were released last month.