Philippine military shares info with Esscom on abductions

ZAMBOANGA CITY: The Philippine military is exchanging intelligence with Malaysia following the abduction of three fishermen by suspected Filipino gunmen in Sabah.

A spokesman for the Western Mindanao Command was quoted by the Manila Times as saying: “Coordination and intelligence sharing and exchange with Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) is now being done.”

However, the newspaper said, no details were given.

Seven gunmen abducted the trio in a cross-border raid into Sabah waters just off the southern Philippine province of Tawi-Tawi on September 10.

The armed men on board two green speedboats intercepted the trawler near the island of Pom Pom off Semporna town and snatched its skipper and two other crew. Four other crew members were left unharmed and reported the incident to their employer, the report said.

No individual or group has claimed responsibility for the latest abduction.

The gunmen are reported to have fled towards Tawi-Tawi, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines.

Abductions of locals and tourists by Filipino gunmen continue with disturbing regularity in Sabah despite the existence of Esscom which was formed to tighten border and maritime security in Sabah.

The latest incident happened as the Philippine military continued its offensive against the Abu Sayyaf rebels in Sulu and Basilan provinces, said the Manila Times.

It was not immediately known whether the militant group was involved in this abduction, but the Abu Sayyaf is still holding over a dozen hostages, including Malaysian and Indonesian tugboat crewmen, a Norwegian, a Japanese and Filipinos.