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Alert crew, prompt naval response foil Abu Sayyaf seajacking bid off Basilan

Google map of Basilan with the red arrow indicating the location of Sibago Island
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE - 11:47 a.m.) An alert crew and quick response by naval units foiled what authorities called an attempt by the Abu Sayyaf to board and seize a container ship off Sibago Island, Basilan Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Western Mindanao Command spokesman Major Felimon Tan said a trusted aide of Abu Sayyaf commander Furuji Indanan was slain in an encounter in Basilan Wednesday. Tan said troops who  killed the terror suspect, identified only as "Garabat," in Barangay Sapah Bulak, Sumisip town, recovered an R4 carbine. 

Tan said the M/V Ocean Kingdom was sailing for Davao City from Zamboanga City when six gunmen onboard two motorboats opened fire with assault rifles around 3:24 p.m. Tuesday.

None of the crew was hurt and they continued to sail on even as they sent out distress calls to the Coast Guard and Navy.

"The Naval Forces Western Mindanao Command deployed naval vessels with the Naval Special Operations Unit in the area,” Tan said. “Air assets were also deployed to conduct aerial reconnaissance and later on pre-positioned in the area as government forces continue to monitor transiting vessels at Basilan Strait and Zamboanga City waters."

“Due to the vigilance of the captain and crew members and the prompt response of naval troops, the armed perpetrators aborted their attempt to seajack the vessel and retreated towards Moro Gulf,” Tan said.

The gunmen retreated towards the Moro Gulf.

Tan said Joint Task Forces Zamboanga, Basilan, and Sulu have been alerted and directed to look for and pursue the suspects.

As of this posting, he M/V Ocean Kingdom and its 27 crew are continuing their voyage to Davao City.