Men named with 17 others in connection with kidnapping cases in the seas off eastern Sabah, Malaysia
Philippines authorities have confirmed that six men named by Malaysian authorities on suspicion of orchestrating kidnappings in waters between the two countries are also wanted by Manila.
The men -- suspected of being members of the Daesh-linked Abu Sayyaf -- have been named with 17 others by Kuala Lumpur in connection with kidnapping cases in the seas off eastern Sabah, Malaysia.
“They and 15 others are being pursued by Philippine law enforcement and military authorities in the hinterlands of Sulu and Basilan provinces,” a statement from the Philippines embassy in Kuala Lumpur said Tuesday.
"Philippines authorities welcome any information from their Malaysian counterparts that would lead to the arrest of these wanted individuals."
During a visit to Malaysia in November, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said that he would work closely with Malaysia counterpart Najib Razak to solve kidnapping incidents in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seas.
On Monday, the Philippines’ military confirmed that its air and naval forces are scouring the country’s troubled south after two more Indonesian fishermen were kidnapped off eastern Malaysia.
According to reports, the abduction was carried out by Abu Sayyaf members on a speedboat who later fled the scene.
The Abu Sayyaf is believed to be holding around 17 foreigners -- including five Malaysians -- and several Filipinos on the island of Sulu.
The military has blamed the group for the recent abduction of six sailors from a Vietnamese-flagged vessel off nearby Basilan island as well as a German man -- whose partner was shot dead -- from a yacht off Sulu.
Police and military reports released in the Philippines late last month stated that the Abu Sayyaf had shifted its priorities from abducting foreigners and businesspeople on the mainland to foreign-flagged tugboats and their crews -- many of them Malaysian and Indonesian nationals -- in local shipping lanes.
The reports also revealed that the group made around 353 million pesos ($7.3 million) from kidnap-for-ransom activities in the first six months of this year.
Since 1991, the group -- armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles -- has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortions in a self-determined fight for an independent province in the Philippines.
It is one of two militant groups in the south who have pledged allegiance to Daesh, prompting fears during the stalling of a peace process between the government and the country's one-time largest Moro rebel group that it could make inroads in a region torn by decades of armed conflict.