Two Malaysian-flagged fishing vessels were in the waters off Lahad Datu's Tambisan area and heading towards the town of Semporna, when they were hijacked by gunmen in speedboats, suspected to be linked to terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, at 0245 hours of 18 June, local media report.

Accordingly, the perpetrators have taken four of the six crew members in the first fishing boat and six of the 10 crew members in the second boat.

On 21 June at about 2200 hrs, elements of the maritime police station were on mobile patrol at Bgy Kahawa, Talipao, Sulu and they sighted a group of nine men walking along the road.

After interviewing the men, they were confirmed to be the abducted crew who were released by their abductors who could have realised that the abducted crew had no money nor anything to give as ransom,

...ReCAAP ISC said.

The nine men were brought to Talipao for custody and debrief. One of the abducted crew is still missing.

This is the first abduction of crew incident reported in 2019. The last incident of abduction of crew occurred on 5 December 2018.

This attack reportedly included the second highest number of hostages since the 2000 Sipadan kidnapping of 21 Malaysians and foreigners.

As the risk of the abduction of crew in the Sulu-Celebes Seas and waters off Eastern Sabah is high as demonstrated by the abduction of 10 crew on 18 Jun 19, the ReCAAP ISC reiterates its advisory issued via the ReCAAP ISC Incident Alert dated 21 Nov 16 to all ships to reroute from the area, where possible. Otherwise, ship masters and crew are strongly urged to exercise extra vigilance while transiting the area, and report immediately to the Operation Centres of Philippines and Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) of Malaysia.