Abu Sayyaf militants linked to the Islamic State have carried out an attack on a South Korean cargo ship, abducting the ship's captain and one Filipino member of its crew.
The Associated Press reported 10 gunmen from the militant group boarded the MV Dongbang Giant, throwing ropes from their speedboat before kidnapping skipper Chul Hong and Filipino crewman Glenn Alindajao.
The ship was attacked on Thursday (20 October) off Bongao town in Tawi Tawi province. The ship was on its way to South Korea from Australia, The attack is the latest in the busy regional sea lanes off the coast of the southern Philippines.
Abu Sayyaf, a loose group numbering several hundred fighters, uses ransom money to fund its Islamic separatism campaign in southern Philippines. They have demanded millions of dollars in televised messages for the release of western hostages.
In the past year the group has executed Canadian citizens John Ridsdel and Robert Hall. Hall was executed by Abu Sayyaf on 13 June. Ridsdel was decapitated by the group two months earlier
One of its leaders, Isnilon Hapilon – who has a $5m bounty on his head – recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group operating in Syria and Iraq. However, the US has designated the group a terrorist entity for its connections to al-Qaeda.
As a result of the Abu Sayyaf activities, patrols off Tawi Tawi and nearby Sulu, where the militants take most of their abductees , have been strengthened.
The controversial President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has warned the group is aiming to establish a caliphate in south-east Asia, moving beyond their traditional separatist demands. He has called on the military to quickly understand the group's tactics in order to defeat them.
"The Abu Sayyaf no longer hungers for independence in Mindanao. They're no longer hungry for autonomy. They are hungry for a fight to establish a caliphate in Southeast Asia."
"It's a chase. You have to be quick with your ears and eyes. You have to train more. You have to reinvent yourself from a soldier in uniform to all of you being intelligence operatives," he told a gathering of soldiers and officers in September.