Gunmen kidnap fishing boat crew off Sulu
Naval Task Group Sulu has been patrolling the waters and military task forces have been on alert since the abduction. File photo
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines — At least four Filipino members of a fishing boat crew were abducted off Sulu province by suspected Abu Sayyaf militants at before dawn on Tuesday.
Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., spokesperson of the military's Western Mindanao Command, identified the kidnapped victims as boat captain Noel Esconde, marine diesel mechanic Reyjim Rocabo and crewmen Roy Ramos and Roel Liones.
Tan said the crew of FB Ramona 2, all residents of Tukuran town, Zamboanga del Sur, were seized about 2:30 a.m. on Tuesday while fishing in the Celebes Sea off Sulu.
He said the incident was only noticed after its sister boat FB Melissa 2 lost radio contact with FB Ramona 2 about two hours later.
Tan said the crew of FB Melissa 2 immediately proceeded to the location of the FB Ramona 2 and found it abandoned. The boat's radio and its global positioning system of the ship was also missing.
No group has claimed responsibility for the abduction but the military is not discounting the Abu Sayyaf Group, whose members have intercepted foreign-flagged ships and abducted the crew members in the past.
The military immediately launched tracking operations to locate the victims and their captors.
Tan said Joint Task Force Sulu has already deployed forces to possible docking sites in Sulu while Naval Task Group Sulu has been patrolling the seas nearby.
He added the joint task forces of Tawi-Tawi and Basilan were have also been alerted to conduct patrols and try to intercept the kidnappers.
Intelligence units are also validating the details of the latest kidnapping incident.