Vietnamese cargo ship, crew abducted off southern Philippines in suspected Abu Sayyaf strike

Military spokesman Filemon Tan said that they have already launched a manhunt fo the missing crew

Indonesia bans ships from sailing to the Philippines
Picture for representation Reuters

The abduction of a Vietnamese cargo ship, along with least five crewmen, by gunmen in waters off southern Philippine has once again raised concern over increasing control of the Abu Sayyaf militants in that area and the failure of the authorities' in controlling the kidnap-for-ransom spree.

The MV Royal 16 was sailing less than 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Basilan island, which is a stronghold of Abu Sayyaf militants before it got hijacked. However, authorities still could not confirm if Abu Sayyaf militants are behind this attack.

Authorities have rescued two crew members, one of whom was wounded, who escaped the attack. The military has launched a manhunt for the others, spokesman Filemon Tan said.

"Sea and naval assets (were) already deployed to search and rescue the said kidnap victims," said tan, as reported by the Channel News Asia. However, the nationalities of the five abducted crewmen are still unknown.

The incident happened on the day when Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak decided to engage the Abu Sayyaf guerillas in Sulu region in a 'hot pursuit'

Najib said joint naval patrols by Philippines, Indonesian and Malaysian will strengthen the security of the region, which has been in the grip of lawlessness for decades. "All we need to do is to inform the Philippine navy that that we are in hot pursuit and request permission to enter its waters," Najib said after a meeting with Duterte in Kula Lumpur.

The rise of hijacking incidents at sea has prompted Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia governments to try to coordinate maritime patrols in order to control such incidents. In a trilateral maritime security meeting in Bali, the countries agreed to let each other enter one another's waters in times of emergency.

Abu Sayyaf extremists, linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), have developed a reputation of ruthless kidnappers after a series of abductions in recent times. The militant group is known for abducting people and demanding millions of dollars in ransom for their return.

Recently, the group beheaded two Canadians whom they had kidnapped from a beach resort after a ransom deadline passed.