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ASG-linked pirates attack cargo vessel off Basilan

ZAMBOANGA CITY — Timely response of government forces coupled with evasive maneuver prevented pirates, believed to have ties with the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), to hijack a cargo vessel off Basilan, officials said yesterday.
Capt. Joe Anthony Orbe, Naval Task Force 61 commander, said the incident happened at around 10:30 p.m. Friday near Sibago Island, Mohammad Ajul, Basilan province.
The cargo vessel, M/V Kudos 1, was on its maiden voyage from Davao to Manila when around 12 gunmen aboard three motorboats pursued and tried to board the ship.
The ship, which was loaded with tons of steel bars, is manned by a 27-man crew, including the skipper.
Chris Paul Magligmot, skipper of M/V Kudos 1, fired five rounds of red flare and commanded his crew for an evasive maneuver when they noticed the pursuing gunmen.
The pirates, who are equipped with hooks and ropes, tried but failed to climb on the ship as the other crewmen splashed them with hot water mixed with oil.
One crew was injured by glass shards when the gunmen, armed with high-powered firearms, opened fire hitting the vessel.
Orbe said Navy personnel aboard Patrol Craft-381 stationed near Coco Island rushed to the vicinity of Sibago Island upon seeing the red flares.
“When you see red flare, its a sign that there is trouble (at sea),” Orbe explained.
He said they also deployed Patrol Craft-386, Attack Craft 485, and Naval Special Operations Group personnel aboard on two Rubberized Inflatable Boats upon receiving call from coastguard for assistance.
Lt. Commander Alvin Dagalea, Zamboanga Coast Guard Station commander, said they also deployed a vessel to assist the cargo ship in distress.
The 3rd Tactical Operation Wing deployed two night-capable helicopters to provide air support to the responding vessels.
But Orbe said the pirates already left when the responding forces arrived on Sibago Island.
He said pirates could be the same group of gunmen who attacked a Vietnamese cargo vessel last year, also near the island of Sibago.
He said they have instituted measures to prevent a repeat of the incident in the area, which is a commercial sea lane.
Dagalea said they escorted M/V Kudos 1 to the anchorage area along R.T. Lim Boulevard after the incident.
“The ship was not damaged except for some bullet holes,” Dagalea said.
He said coast guard marshals will escort M/V Kudos 1 to its destination.

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