4 Malaysians abducted off the waters between Tawi-tawi and Sabah

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(CNN Philippines) -- Gunmen seized four Malaysian crew of a tugboat off the coast of the eastern state of Sabah, a week after a similar attack on a Taiwanese tugboat in the southern Philippines, media reported on Sunday (April 3).

“We confirm receiving reports of this incident (4 Malaysians Kidnapped) but information remains sketchy at the moment and efforts are being exerted to ascertain all details on the incident,“ according to Western Mindanao Command.

The tugboat ‘Massive Six' was on its way back to Malaysia when eight armed men hijacked it.

The gunmen, suspected to be Abu Sayyaf militants, also took laptops, mobile phones and unspecified amounts of cash. The tugboat returned to Sabah when the gunmen left.

The Western Mindanao Command, meanwhile, said it is still verifying if the kidnappers have links to the Abu Sayyaf Group.

Philippine authorities are now coordinating with their Malaysian counterparts, and have already strengthened sea security and border patrols.

It was the second attack in a week on tugboats in the waters that border Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Ten Indonesians were abducted when a Taiwanese tugboat was intercepted in the southern Philippines.

The Abu Sayyaf, known for kidnappings, beheadings, bombings and extortion, has demanded 50 million pesos ($1.09 million) for the freedom of the Indonesian crew. The al Qaeda-linked group is one of the most hardline Islamist militant groups in the Muslim south of the largely Christian Philippines.

Reuters contributed to this report.