Malaysia Rescues 11 Indonesian Crew Set Adrift after Hijack

Eleven Indonesian sailors have been rescued after surviving at sea for eight days, set adrift by hijackers who seized their Singapore-registered tugboat, Malaysian authorities said Friday. The Malaysian maritime enforcement agency chief in Sabah state, Mohamad Taha Ibrahim, said the men were found Thursday off Pulau Layang-Layang, about 300 kilometres (186 miles) northwest of Kota Kinabalu on Borneo island.

He said the sailors were on board the Asta, a tug sailing from Singapore to Cambodia, when it was hijacked on February 6 off Tioman island on the east coast of peninsular Malaysia. Mohamad Taha said the vessel was attacked by masked pirates armed with assault rifles and machetes, who held the crew captive for five days before setting 11 of the 12 sailors adrift on a life raft.

“The 11 Indonesian crew were picked up by the Malaysian navy after surviving for eight days at sea and the men are healthy but in a very weak state,” he told AFP.

“The crew had drifted quite a distance in the South China Sea and it was when they drifted near a Malaysian navy post on Pulau Layang-Layang that they were spotted and rescued,” he added.

Mohamad Taha said there was no news of the 12th crew member or the fate of the tugboat. He said the crew had been handed over to the Indonesian diplomatic officials in Sabah for repatriation while investigations continue into the hijacking.