Indonesia bans ships from sailing to the Philippines
Representational Image Reuters

Four crew members from a Philippine-flagged fishing vessel HAVE BEEN abducted in waters close to the remote Sulu island group more than 1,000 kilometres south of the Philippines' capital Manila. The military said waters around Sulu island chains are infested with Abu Sayyaf Islamic militants who have earlier taken hostages there.

Regional military spokesman Major Filemon Tan said a sister vessel found the unmanned ship, FB Ramona 2 in the Celebes Sea early on Tuesday, two hours after the crew of both vessels made their last radio contact.

Tan told AFP that the seamen "found all crews on board missing and the VHF Radio/GPS was stolen". According to him, the Filipino boat captain and three other crew members were kidnapped.

The Sulu group is a stronghold of the Abu Sayyaf, but Tan could not immediately comment on whether the Abu Sayyaf militants were involved in the latest incident.

The Abu Sayyaf group, linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria still has about 18 foreign hostages and five local captives. Most of them were abducted from vessels off the southern Philippines.

The militant group is fairly small with about 400 members, but it is known for kidnapping people and demanding millions of dollars in ransom. If they fail to receive the ransom on time, they have been seen beheading their hostages.

Tan also said that the security forces have been ordered to intercept the kidnappers in case they try to land in the Sulu group.

Reports said the unmanned vessel was part of a tuna fishing fleet which was based in the southern Philippines. Tan added that the crew members also belonged to the same area.