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Pirates capture four Indonesian crew members in southern Philippines

MANILA, April 16 (UPI) — A group of gunmen took four crew members hostage from an Indonesian tugboat while traveling from the Philippines to Indonesia.

The armed men in a speed boat attacked a 10-man crew on the tugboat TB Henry and fired a shot that wounded at least one crew member.

“The tugboat was shot and unfortunately one of the crew was hit and wounded,” Western Mindanao Command spokesman Maj. Filemon Tan, Jr., said.

Six crew members including the man who was wounded were rescued and taken to the Port of Lahad Datu in Sabah. It is unclear where the gunmen took the kidnapped crew.

“Despite having suffered gunshot wounds (the crew member who was shot) is in stable condition,” a spokesman for Indonesia’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said.

No group has taken responsibility for the kidnapping but it is believed that the gunmen were members of the militant group Abu Sayyaf who have been connected with the Islamic State.

Acts of piracy have been common in the area over the past two weeks. Abu Sayyaf militants abducted 10 Indonesians from the tugboat Brahma 12 and barge Anand 12 on March 29, demanding a ransom of more than $1 million.

Nine more hostages were taken from MV Massive 6 tugboat on April 1. Abu Sayyaf eventually released five, but kept four more hostage.

The Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman said the nation would work with Malaysia and the Philippines, as well as the owners of the vessels to investigate the Friday incident.

“The Indonesian government will take steps to address this frequent occurrence of piracy in the region,” he said.

Military forces have been alerted to look out for both victims and suspects, while the rampant piracy has caused Malaysia to shut down trade on the border of Tawi-Tawi.

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