MANILA Feb 20 Gunmen in southern Philippine
waters killed one crewman of a Vietnamese vessel and abducted
seven in what appeared to be the latest attack by pirates in the
area, the Philippine coastguard said on Monday.
Coastguard and marine soldiers rescued 17 Vietnamese who
were part of the 25-man crew of MV Giang Hai, which was attacked
on Sunday evening near Baguan Island in Tawi-Tawi, an area close
to the stronghold of the notorious Abu Sayyaf militant group.
An investigation was underway and the coastguard had
launched a pursuit in coordination with the military and police,
said coastguard spokesman Commander Armand Balilo.
Well armed and equipped with fast boats and high-tech
navigation devices, the Abu Sayyaf is a stubborn problem for the
Philippine military, which has failed to curtail piracy and
kidnappings in the area, despite major troop deployments in the
in the Sulu Archipelago.
The Islamic State-linked group has been involved in frequent
acts of piracy and has beheaded captives when ransom demands
have not been met.
Before the latest attack, the militants were holding 27
hostages, according to a tally of reports about kidnappings and
a few releases.
The captives are Indonesian, Malaysian and Vietnamese
seamen, as well as Filipinos, a Dutchman, a German and a
A surge in piracy off parts of the Philippines is forcing
ship-owners to divert vessels through other waters, pushing up
costs and shipping times.
President Rodrigo Duterte said last month he had asked China
for help in the fight against the militants by sending ships to
patrol the dangerous waters.
(Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Editing by Martin Petty, Robert