Panamanian freighter escapes from Sayyaf off Tawi-Tawi
ZAMBOANGA CITY – A Panamanian freighter narrowly escaped an attempt by suspected Abu Sayyaf rebels to hijack the ship while it was sailing off Tawi-Tawi province in southern Philippines, security officials said Friday.
Officials said armed men on board several black speed boats chased MV Dong Hae Star while it was heading to Indonesia from China on February 22. The ship sent out a distress call to the Philippine Navy base in Bongao, the provincial capital, and immediately sent out patrol boats to intercept the gunmen.
“MV Dong Hae Star, a Panamanian flag ship transiting the Sulu Sea from China to Indonesia, reported to Littoral Monitoring Station in Bongao that suspicious black speedboats with 5 persons each on board was pursuing them in sea waters off Pearl Bank. The speedboats desist from chasing them and maneuvered to open sea upon sighting responding navy ships,” said Lt. Jose Covarrubias, a navy spokesman.
He said Rear Admiral Rene Medina, commander of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao, ordered the deployment of more patrol boats in Tawi-Tawi near the Sabah border to protect seafarers sailing in the area.
“Navy ships under Joint Task Force Tawi-Tawi continue to patrol the area and deployed additional vessels in Tawi-Tawi and Sulu for maritime interdiction and to support the law enforcement operations in the area,” Covarrubias said.
The military’s Western Mindanao Command also said that clashes erupted on Friday between troops and Abu Sayyaf under Aldin Bagadi in Indanan town in nearby Sulu province. Army Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, said the fighting broke out in the village called Paligi, but there were no immediate reports of casualties from both sides.
But Petinglay said soldiers recovered an automatic rifle and ammunition, including 2 hammocks and a pair of combat boots, and a bandoleer.
She said military operations against the Abu Sayyaf which is holding over 2 dozen foreigners, mostly sailors, continue in Sulu as well as in Tawi-Tawi. Both provinces belong to the restive Muslim autonomous region. (Mindanao Examiner)