Gunmen abduct 6 Vietnamese, seize vessel off Basilan

BASILAN, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Gunmen seized a foreign vessel and abducted its 6 Vietnamese crew early Friday morning, November 11, off Basilan province in Western Mindanao, the Philippine Coast Guard here said.

The coast guard said about 10 armed men attacked the MV Royal 16 near Sibago Island in the town of Mohammad Ajul in Basilan.

They abducted 6 of the Vietnamese crew and wounded one of them, according to the coast guard. The 6 were identified as follows:

The wounded was identified as Lai Mai Tien, an electrician presently accompanied by Pham Van Trong and evacuated to a hospital in Zamboanga City.

The coast guard said it's not clear where the gunmen brought the crew. The following were listed as crew on board:

"Sea and naval assets (were) already deployed to search and rescue the said kidnap victims," said regional military spokesman Filemon Tan.

The identities of the kidnappers were still unknown. The Coast Guard in Zamboanga said on Saturday, November 12, the vessel was spotted in the vicinity of Paseo del Mar in Zamboanga.

The attack brings to at least 8 the number of people abducted from vessels in the region over the past week, including an elderly German sailor, raising fears authorities are unable to control the worsening piracy problem.

In recent months, the Abu Sayyaf has been accused of kidnapping dozens of Indonesian and Malaysian sailors in waters off the southern Philippines.

On the weekend an Abu Sayyaf commander claimed responsibility for abducting a 70-year-old German sailor and murdering his wife.

In what maritime experts described as a landmark incident, the captain of a South Korean cargo ship and a Filipino crewman were abducted off their vessel, the first such attack on large merchant vessel.

Abu Sayyaf militants this year beheaded two Canadian hostages after demands for millions of dollars were not met. Most of the Indonesian and Malaysian sailors were released after ransoms were reportedly paid.

However two more Indonesian sailors were abducted on November 5.

The Abu Sayyaf is a loose network of militants formed in the 1990s with seed money from Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network, and has earned millions of dollars from kidnappings-for-ransom.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has launched a military offensive to "destroy" the Abu Sayyaf. He had also agreed to allow Malaysian and Indonesian authorities to enter Philippine waters in pursuit of the Abu Sayyaf. – with a report from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com