Tug Operator Blamed for Abu Sayyaf Hijacking
On Tuesday, Malaysia's inspector-general of police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Baka said at a press conference that the most recent Abu Sayyaf tug crew kidnapping off of Sabah was the fault of the tug's operator, which he alleged had not followed official guidance.
He emphasized that he did not mean to blame the victims of the attack, but rather the operator. "I hold them responsible because we have engaged with them and advised them what they should be doing. But they did not heed our calls,” he said.
Khalid added that he believed there were other operators who were not treating the matter with enough seriousness. “Unfortunately, they take the matter too lightly,” he said. "The east coast of Sabah has always been our concern. Not only from [Abu Sayyaf] but also kidnap for ransom groups and other terror groups."
He called for all tug operators to heed the police's precautions. “I ask those we have had discussions with to follow our advice so that such incidents can be avoided. If they do not follow our advice, the risk is very high," he said.
The missing crew of the Malaysian-owned tug have been identified as Mohd Ridzuan Ismail, 32, Abd Rahim Summas, 62, Mohd Jumadil Rahim, 23, Fandy Bakran, 26 and Tayudin Anjut, 45.
Just across the border, Indonesian authorities have issued a ban on Philippines-bound departures from the most affected areas, but industry sources say that the restriction can be circumvented. “There have been leakages. Philippines are still getting their coal from many parts of Indonesia, for example from Kalimantan and other places. This is done outside the knowledge of the authorities,” said Budhi Halim, Secretary-General of the Indonesian National Shipowners Association, speaking to Channel NewsAsia last week.
Separately, the Armed Forces of the Philippines has confirmed that seven Indonesian tugboat crewmembers were kidnapped by pirates allied with Abu Sayyaf on July 22 – yet another in a string of attacks on the slow-moving tugs that haul coal from Kalimantan to the Philippines. Six of the 13 crewmembers were freed right away, but the others were not so lucky. The attackers were identified as the serial kidnappers the Muktadil brothers.