ESScom on high alert over possible Abu Sayyaf kidnap plan

LAHAD DATU: The Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCom) is on high alert after receiving intelligence information of a possible kidnap for ransom plan by the militant Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in the waters of the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZone).

ESSCom commander Datuk Hazani Ghazali said today ESSCom has taken the necessary measures, such as stepped-up patrols and readiness, following receipt of the information which has been shared with the Philippine authorities.

“The maritime community has been advised to be alert and inform us on the movement of their vessels and of any suspicious boats. They have been advised not to go close to the (international) border,” he said when contacted by Bernama.

Meanwhile, the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) issued a warning on Monday that vessels plying the Sulu-Celebes sea risk becoming victims of kidnapping by the terrorist ASG.

According to the ReCAAP Information Sharing Centre, there is a real threat of a kidnap plan by ASG militants in the waters off Sabah.

It said the Abu Sayyaf is targeting wealthy businessmen, fishing boats or slow-moving ships in the area.

The ReCAAP centre pressed the alert button after receiving official information from the Philippine Coast Guard on the recent sighting of the arrival of five ASG militants with assorted firearms in Tawi-Tawi.

It strongly advised shipmasters and crew to exercise extra vigilance when transiting in the waters off eastern Sabah and the Sulu-Celebes sea.