The Malaysian government has initiated negotiations with the abductors of five of its sailors on Monday (18 July), deputy home minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed has said. Mohamed added that the government had identified the kidnappers. This comes after the Philippines Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza confirmed on Tuesday (19 July) that Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) was behind this latest kidnapping.
The militant group, which is accused of a series of kidnappings and sea crime in the Philippines and Malaysian waters, was reported to have abducted these five sailors from a tugboat in the bay of Dent Haven off Lahad Datu in the Malaysian state of Sabah on Monday.
Mohamed said the government had taken over the negotiations to release the five abducted sailors after their kidnappers contacted their families. He, however, has advised the families to not divulge any details about the ongoing negotiations to the media as that may prompt the militants to commit more such crimes. "We know the people involved and we are negotiating with them. I hope any discussions made would not be highlighted in the media or any other form; what is more important is to secure the release of the victims," he was quoted by New Strait Times Online as saying.
The abducted sailors were on their way back to Semporna from Sandakan, both cities in Sabah state. Abu Sayyaf militants intercepted them off Lahad Datu and authorities came to know about the kidnapping when the empty tugboat was found with its engine still running.
Abu Sayyaf is an Islamic State (Isis)-linked militant group that operates from Philippines. The group were reported to have abducted three Indonesian fishermen about two weeks back and fled into the Philippine waters. They were also said to have abducted another seven Indonesian fishermen at Sulu Sea in the Philippines about a month ago.
"I heard today that they took five more Malaysians in Lahad Datu and the Indonesians are still there," Dureza was quoted by GMA News Online as telling a news conference on Tuesday in Malacañang, the official residence of the Philippines President. He also told the media that Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), led by founding chairman Nur Misuari , has offered to help the military in its operations against the Abu Sayyaf. "They like to do coordination with military forces on the ground. They want to help in addressing the criminal acts by Abu Sayyaf," he noted.