MANILA, Philippines – After three days of a massive search for six Vietnamese sailors kidnapped by 10 unidentified gunmen in the waters off Basilan, government security forces have yet to establish the location of the victims.
“Immediately after the incident (last Friday), the Western Mindanao Command launched a wide area search but no significant findings yet so our men are still working on this now,” Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said yesterday.
He said the AFP leadership is continuously monitoring the pursuit operations aimed at rescuing the six Vietnamese hostages identified as Pham Minh Tuan, boat captain; Do Trung Hieu, chief mate; Hoang Vo, second mate; Tran Khac Dung, third mate; Hoang Trung Thong, boatswain’s mate and Hoang Va Hai, an apprentice boatswain’s mate.
The military is still validating reports that the Abu Sayyaf was the perpetrator of the seajacking of the Davao-bound Vietnamese cargo vessel MV Royal 16 and the subsequent kidnapping of six of its crew.
“In the absence of an official report from the field, we cannot say for now that the Abu Sayyaf was indeed behind the seajacking because there are other lawless groups that may have committed the crime,” Padilla said.