Suspected pirates massacred eight fishermen in cold blood off the coast of Zamboanga City, Mindanao.
The atrocity coincides with the release of an international report that reveals that kidnappings in the southern waters of the Philippines are at a 10-year high.
Seven crew members survived the attack yesterday night (Monday, January 9) night by jumping off the boat and swimming off into the darkness. Meanwhile, the five heavily armed attackers tied up their shipmates, said Commodore Joel Garcia, head of the Philippine Coast Guard.
“According to the initial investigation, the attackers were on board a speed boat and they were all armed,” he said. “They immediately tied up eight of the crewmen, and the seven others were able to jump out and survive.”
Two of the survivors reached land and alerted the coast guard. Two vessels were dispatched and the fishing boat was found floating with eight bodies on board.
Distressing pictures of the victims have been released by the coast guard, but we have declined to publish them out of respect for their families. The photographs show bodies sprawled on the boat’s bow, with a nylon cord tying the men together by their hands.
The coast guard found the five other survivors floating near Siromon Island. They were given medical care and returned to their home port.
“We are now conducting an investigation with the seven survivors and will find out who are the perpetrators,” Commodore Garcia said.
Lieutenant Commander Alvin Dagalea, of the local coast guard station in Zamboanga, said that the gunmen were believed to be pirates. A military report said other motives being investigated include extortion or a grudge between fishing groups. Links to the Abu Sayyaf terror group has not been ruled out.
About two dozen sailors and tourists were taken captive by Islamist militants last year in seaborne attacks in the Celebes and Sulu seas, raising concerns among defence officials from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
The number of maritime kidnappings hit a ten-year high in 2016, with waters off the southern Philippines becoming increasingly dangerous, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) announced today (Tuesday).
While the overall number of pirate attacks has declined in recent years, the IMB said 62 people worldwide were kidnapped for ransom at sea last year compared to only 19 in 2015 and nine in 2014.
“The kidnapping of crew from ocean-going merchant vessels in the Sulu Sea and their transfer to the southern Philippines represents a notable escalation in attacks,” the IMB said in its report.
Defence Minister Delfin Lorenzana said the military had been ordered to end threats from Abu Sayyaf within six months, with more troops to be poured into the area while a ceasefire agreement with Maoist-led guerrillas holds.
“That is our target,” he said. “We will just have to do all we can, combining military operations and developmental projects to end what they are doing,” he said.
Abu Sayyaf group has been holding about two dozen captives, including Dutch, German, Japanese, Indonesian, Malaysian and Vietnamese nationals.