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The Abu Sayyaf group was behind the abduction of Vietnamese sailors on November 11 when the rebels boarded a freighter in Philippine waters near their Basilan Island stronghold,
“We have received reports coming from our field operations units that the Vietnamese sailors are being held by Abu Sayyaf,” Philippines Daily Inquirer quoted Edgard Arevalo, Armed Forces Public Affairs Chief, as saying on November 16 at Camp Aguinaldo.
He could not confirm if the captives had been taken to Basilan and said this information “is the subject of further verification”.
Arevalo said the Vietnamese embassy to the Philippines is supporting authorities by providing an interpreter.
The dangerous waters near Abu Sayyaf's stronghold. Photo courtesy of the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia
The Vietnamese MV Royal 16, which was carrying cement, sent a distress call at 3:30 a.m. on November 11, when 10 gunmen in a speedboat intercepted it around 10 nautical miles to the southwest of Basilan, one of five provinces in the Philippines' troubled southern Muslim autonomous region.
The militants attacked and captured the ship's captain alongside five crew member, while two members escaped with one wounded.
“The crewmen will undergo a debriefing and it's my understanding that the Vietnamese Embassy will be taking part in the interview," Alvaro said. "They will help by providing an interpreter so that we can get a clear picture of the situation.”
On November 12, Vietnam issued a safety warning to vessels traveling through the region, and other maritime administrations have urged extra vigilance or rerouting from the area if possible.
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