Barge of abducted Indonesian crew found off Lahad Datu

LAHAD DATU: A barge, believed to be pulled by Indonesian registered tugboat Brahma 12, was found floating in waters off Lahad Datu on Sunday after 10 crew members were abducted by Abu Sayyaf on March 26.

The barge, Anand 12, was found drifting in the waters off Tungku about 100kms from the east coast town of Lahad Datu by Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) patrol boats on Sunday.

Sandakan MMEA director Capt A. Razak  Abd Rahman said they believe that the barge had drifted into Malaysian waters.

Brahma 12 was found drifting in the Tawi Tawi islands close to Sabah’s east coast border waters on March 29 after all the Indonesian crew members were reported missing. Abu Sayyaf gunmen in Jolo are demanding 50mil Pesos (RM5mil) for their freedom.

Razak said they received information about the drifting tugboat at about 1pm on Sunday and immediately despatched their patrols - Kilat 51 and Banggi 35 – to the area.

He said the barge could have drifted through the Alice Channel in the Philippines sea borders with Semporna and drifted into Malaysian waters.

"When we found it, the barge was located about 8.4 nautical miles from the Tun Sharifah Rodziah (TSR) and 13.7 nautical miles from Tanjung Tunku,’’ he said.

Razak said the barge, still laden with coal, was towed back to jetty Fordeco in Lahad Datu for further investigations.

He said the operations were carried out through the integrated assistance of various agencies under Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom).

On Saturday, four Malaysian crew members were grabbed when Filipino gunmen raided their tugboat close to international border waters off Pulau Ligitan off Semporna.

Five other crew members – two Indonesians and three Myanmar nationals – were let off and being questioned by Malaysian police in Tawau.

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