By Francis Wakefield
An attempt by suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits to take over a container on Basilan waters on Tuesday afternoon has been thwarted, the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Western Mindanao Command (AFP-WesMinCom) disclosed.
Army Major Filemon I. Tan Jr., AFP-WesMinCom spokesman said, MV Ocean Kingdom — a container vessel registered in Manila, Philippines — was traveling from Zamboanga City to Davao City, when it was harassed by armed men on board two watercraft off Sibago Island in Basilan at about 3:24 p.m. Tuesday.
Tan said due to the vigilance of her crew and the prompt response of naval troops, the armed perpetrators aborted their attempt to seajack the vessel and retreated towards Moro Gulf.
Tan added that reports from ground units disclosed that the two watercraft boarded by the perpetrators were manned by six Abu Sayyaf members armed with M16, M14, and AK47 rifles.
He said MV Ocean Kingdom incurred gunshot holes on her port and starboard freeboard, but no casualty was reported on her crew members.
Tan said the Naval Forces Western Mindanao Command deployed vessels in the area.
Air assets were also deployed to conduct aerial reconnaissance and later on prepositioned in the area as government forces continue to monitor transiting vessels at Basilan Strait and Zamboanga City waters.
“The Joint Task Forces Zamboanga, Basilan, and Sulu were already alerted and directed to look out and pursue the perpetrators,” Tan said.
The MV Ocean Kingdom and its 27 crewmen are now back on its course towards Davao City.